Sunday, May 13, 2001

Diner's Journal

Chefs sell soft shells in short season

By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For about six hours each spring, blue crabs swim around without their shells. They've shed the old ones and the new haven't hardened. If you catch a crab right then, you can eat it shell and all.

        Fortunately, the crabs take turns going through this process, so soft-shell season lasts several months rather than several hours. It's just now beginning, and quite a few restaurants are featuring soft-shells as dinner or appetizer specials.

        Some restaurants served soft shells last weekend, and more will add them over the next few weeks. Usually they are served deep-fried or sauteed, which keeps the soft shell crispy, but they can inspire a wide variety of preparations. Here are a few restaurants that will have them on the menu:

        • At J's Fresh Seafood in Hyde Park, chef-owner Jimmy Gherardi says he does “everything” to soft-shell crabs. Sauteed in a caramel-hazelnut sauce. Breaded and fried with Thai sweet-hot chili sauce. Grilled. With Frangelico sauce on basmati rice. The dinner specials are mostly three crabs for $24.95.

        • At Germano's in Montgomery, you might have soft shells sauteed alla franchese, dipped in an egg batter. Or maybe on capellini with pomodoro sauce basilico, or with a Cajun Diane sauce. A couple of jumbos are $34.95.

        • At South Beach Grill at the Waterfront in Covington last weekend, soft-shells were served dredged and pan-seared on top of a mesclun salad with crab mayo and a truffle-chive butter. One for an appetizer was $11, two for an entree were $24. The chefs will vary preparations throughout the season.

        Other restaurants where you can satisfy a seasonal crab craving are Scalea's in Covington; Jeff Ruby's, downtown; Jimmy D's in Montgomery and Michael G's in Columbia Tusculum.



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