Soft Shell Crabs with Ramps & Lime Pickle

Rocco DiSpirito, Union Pacific, New York City - April 1999

For 1 serving (requires advanced preparation)

Pickled ramps:

  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsps. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 3 fenugreek seeds
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 6 ramp bulbs with 1" of green tops attached, cleaned and roots trimmed

Bring all ingredients except ramps to a simmer over low heat in nonreactive saucepan. Add ramps; return to a simmer; remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Pour into sterilized jars; cover; refrigerate at least 2 weeks before using.

Swiss chard:

  • 1/2 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. bacon, cut into tiny lardons and blanched
  • 1/2 tsp. shallots, minced
  • 1 cup Swiss chard, stemmed and blanched
  • 1/2 tsp. lime pickle, pureed (see note below)
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground

Heat butter in small sauté pan over medium heat; add bacon and shallots; cook 45 seconds. Add Swiss chard; cook until heated through. Transfer to blender; add pureed lime pickle, lemon juice, and olive oil; blend to form an emulsion; season; reserve (keep warm).

Assembly:

  • 2 jumbo soft shell crabs
  • 2 egg whites, whipped into very soft peaks
  • 2/3 cup chickpea flour mixed with 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn oil
  • 6 ramps, green tops only
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsps. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp. spot prawn roe or lobster roe
  1. Brush crabs with egg white; dust with mixed flours.

  2. Heat corn oil in skillet over medium-high heat; sauté crabs shell side down until they turn orange/pink (about 2 minutes).

  3. Turn crabs; cook another 2 to 3 minutes; remove to paper towels to drain.

  4. Knot together 2 green ramp tops; repeat twice to make 3 knotted bundles.

  5. Heat olive oil in small skillet; add knotted ramp greens; sauté 1minute; remove to a plate; reserve.

  6. Heat butter in cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until brown and foamy; add 1/2 tsp. sliced pickled ramp bulbs and roe; reserve (keep warm).

  7. To serve, arrange pickled ramps in three sections of a plate; place half of the Swiss chard emulsion in center; top with crab; place remaining Swiss chard atop crab; top with second crab; spoon butter/roe sauce around; arrange knotted ramp green bundles at 2, 5 and 10 o'clock.

Food Arts Note: Lime pickles are sold at Indian markets.