I made these for myself yesterday for lunch and goodness I wasn’t disappointed. The secret to this dish is good quality butter, I used Kerrygold here and it is essential to this dishes’ success. . Butter has a long and interesting history, having great importance in grassland cultures. The Romans thought butter was “barbarian food”, and when the Catholic church tried to curtail butter eating during lent in the middle ages, the people of Northern Europe almost revolted. Butter is serious business, and has been an essential food for thousands of years for people where grasslands are abundant. I did a column on Cowbella’s pastured butter last fall, who are now carrying on a fifth generation of butter making. At the turn of the century, almost half of America’s butter came from farm women who made the product to support their family’s with the supplemental income–a true cottage industry. Many of us now use olive oil, but there really is a case to be made for good quality pastured butter. Not all butter is created equal, and cultured butter is like nothing else and can take a humble dish to another level. Now pastured butter is expensive, but fancy sauces and condiments are expensive too, and the flavor and added health benefits of pastured butter in my mind make up for the extra cost. Here in New York, there is a renewed interested in pastured and cultured butters, and there are more and more farms offering butter processed on their farms. This is a response to the fact that pasture-based farms in New York state can’t compete in a commodity system that favors larger CAFO dairies out west. Sadly, our policy does little to help our farms here in New York State and we have seen dramatic losses in our Dairy industry but by sourcing locally for dairy products we can all make a difference. In Ireland, pasture-based farms receive support and policy that helps them stay afloat, and as a result their butter is a high quality pastured product. The same is true in Iceland where the butter is some of the best I have ever tasted and still reasonably priced. I used to eat the butter like crazy when I was there, thinking I couldn’t find comparable quility in America but this isn’t true at all, you can buy Kerrygold, Smjor and a wide variety of local butters like Cowbella and NY Butter and Organic Valley pastured butters. Which is wonderful for butter lovers like me!
To me this dish is as much about the butter as it is about the soft shell crab. Together they make magic!
Soft Shelled Crab with Pastured Butter, Lemon and Capers
- Two fresh soft shelled crabs, cleaned and rinsed
- 1/4 cups cornstarch
- 2 ounces pastured butter
- juice of half of a lemon, about 1 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons dry vermouth
- sea salt
- 1 tablespoon brined capers, drained
- Clean the soft shelled crabs, toss in cornstarch.
- In a ten inch skill melt the butter at a medium low heat.
- When butter is melted add the soft shelled crabs face up, and saute for about 4 minutes.
- Turn, and sauttee for another 3 minutes, or until it is done.
- Salt the crabs with salt immediately after you have taken them out of the pan.
- Set aside the cooked crabs in a warm place.
- add the juice, dry vermouth, lemon and capers to the skillet and bring to a boil, cook until the sauce is fully incorporated. Pour over crabs.