Sunday, May 25, 2003

You won't have to fish very far to find fresh crabs

Campbell's scoop

By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Where to eat soft-shell crabs:

The season for blue crabs that have molted their shells and haven't grown new ones yet, otherwise known as soft-shell crabs, is just beginning. It has its peak for about six weeks in June and early July.

Soft-shells seem to bring out the creativity in local chefs, though if you like your crab nice and simple, you can find those, too.

Here are some restaurants that will be serving soft-shells. They may not be available every night - try Friday and Saturday. Expect to pay a few dollars either side of $20 for two crabs served as an entree. The price may be a little higher this early in the season.

• At Wildflour Bakery and Tapas Bar in Covington, chef Justin Dean is doing soft-shells meuniere-style, with brown butter, or served with an Oriental buckwheat noodle salad.

• All three chefs at J's Fresh Seafood in Hyde Park will come up with a special preparation. Try them this coming week sauteed with saffron mango dressing and herb vinaigrette on locally grown lettuces, or fried in a potato fishnet over warm blue crab, asparagus and roma tomato salad, or pan-seared with grilled polenta, olives, garlic and fresh tomato sauce.

You also can get soft-shells sauteed, grilled or dipped in beer batter or bread crumbs and deep-fried.

• At the Chokolat Morel in Mason, Dave Avalos is starting the season by sauteing soft-shell crabs in blue corn and serving them on a pool of black bean sauce with Israeli couscous and aioli sauce spiced with Thai rooster sauce.

• Soft-shells will start to appear this week at Sturkey's in Wyoming. Paul Sturkey says his kitchen loves to experiment with soft-shells, taking suggestions from customers, and creating new preparations. In the past they've done them grilled, served with a roma tomato and caper butter, with mango chili sauce, with an almond and pecan crust, or very popularly as an appetizer, fried and dipped in bearnaise.

• At Wild Bill's in Loveland, Bill Schroeder will serve the crabs tortilla-crusted with an ancho chili vinaigrette on top of organic greens with a roasted corn and avocado salsa and roasted jalapeŇo-polenta croutons.

• Chefs at Uncle Yip's Chinese Seafood in Fairfield apply their rock salt deep-fried technique to soft-shells.

• Mike Fink, on the river in Covington, will serve soft-shells simply, sauteed with garlic butter on pasta.

• At Michael G's, in Columbia Tusculum, they're prepared lightly breaded and fried.

Look for soft-shell crabs in the next few weeks at the Heritage, Blake's, South Beach Grill and other Tristate restaurants.

E-mail pcampbell@enquirer .com

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You won't have to fish very far to find fresh crabs
Serve it this week: Soft-shell crabs