Cooking soft-shell crabs on the grill gives them a smoky flavor and an appealingly chewy texture. The accompanying salad is Mario Batali's Italian riff on coleslaw—it's made with apples and fennel, which adds a tasty licorice bite.
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1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 tablespoons pink peppercorns, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon celery seeds
4 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline
2 fennel bulbs—trimmed, cored and very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
16 soft shell crabs, cleaned
How to Make It
Light a grill. In a large bowl, stir the vinegar with the 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the pink peppercorns and the celery seeds. Add the apples and fennel and toss well; season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled.
In a small bowl, blend the mayonnaise with the lemon juice, lemon zest and the remaining 1 tablespoon of pink peppercorns; season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled.
Season the crabs with salt and pepper and brush with oil. Grill over a hot fire, top shell down, until lightly charred and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn and grill until just cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Spoon the apple-fennel salad onto plates and top each serving with 2 grilled crabs. Serve the lemon mayonnaise on the side.
The salad and lemon mayonnaise can be refrigerated, separately, overnight.
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