SPAGHETTI with SOFT SHELL CRAB and BROCCOLI RABE
(aka The Best Pasta in the World)
from Andrew Shapiro of Long Island, NY
Why is this so good? I'm not sure, because it sounds to me like it shouldn't be so good. It sounds like the broccoli rabe's bitterness would overpower the delicateness of the softshells, or that it will turn into this mushy mess that will look worse than it will taste. But it doesn't and its not. What makes this pasta so special is that it is best prepared in a small window of the growing season. When the wintered over fresh broccoli rabe is sweet and not at all bitter and ready late enough into spring (think mid to end of April in the northeast), that it intersects with the first softshell crabs of the season. Its a rare time, and for me I usually can only prepare it once or twice before the broccoli rabe is gone. If you can't get local fresh broccoli rabe, you can substitute store bought broccoli rabe but I would boil it first to rid it of some of the bitterness. Or try it with another green, like spinach or kale.
4-5 nice size fresh softshell crabs
1-1.5lbs fresh, local broccoli rabe, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
crushed hot peppers
1lb dried spaghetti
1c dry white wine
extra virgin olive oil
In a wide saute pan (one that has a lid) over medium heat, sweat the garlic and chili flakes in about a 1/4 cup of good extra virgin olive oil. Add the cleaned crabs top side down and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Flip them, and add about 1 cup of dry white wine. Cook another 3 minutes. Lower heat and one by one pull the crabs out with tongs and using kitchen scissors, roughly chop them into small pieces directly over the pan, capturing all juices. If you have crabs that have that greenish roe inside even better! Add the chopped broccoli rabe on top of the crabs, drizzle with some olive oil and a little salt. Cover the pan and let the greens steam a bit. after a few minutes open the pan and toss the crab mixture with the broccoli rabe and get it all incorporated. Lower the heat and cover.
Meanwhile cook the pasta, when its done, drain and add to the crab pan and toss with the mixture to coat. Add a little more olive oil if its dry, put it in a bowl and enjoy with your favorite dry white wine. I would absolutely enjoy eating this with a bottle of Austrian Gruner Veltliner or something like a Falanghina from Italy.