Soft Shell Crab with Cheesy Polenta and Smothered Collard Greens
Soft Shell Crab:
Soft shell crabs (allow 1 large, or 2 small crabs per person), cleaned and trimmed (see note, below)
2 cups finely ground cornmeal
2 t salt
½ t cayenne pepper
1 t coarse ground black pepper
¼ cup neutral-flavored cooking oil for frying such as grapeseed oil
In a large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper, mixing well.
In a heavy skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Drop a pinch of cornmeal mix into skillet—oil is hot enough when cornmeal sizzles. Adjust heat as necessary. Add dredged crabs, top side down, leaving enough space to move the crabs around freely, about 3 at a time, according to size. Fry about 4 minutes per side, turning midway through, or until blue “shells” turn red, and cornmeal is golden brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper toweling.
Note: Find instructional video for cleaning soft shell crabs on Notes from Maggie’s Farm.
Cheesy Polenta (1 cup prepared polenta per serving, for 8 servings use):
1 cup coarse grind cornmeal
2 cups unsalted chicken stocks
2 cups water
1 T coarse grind salt
2 t white pepper
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
In a Dutch oven, bring stock, water, salt and white pepper to a boil. Slowly pour cornmeal into water, whisking briskly to avoid clumps. Cover and cook for approximately 45 minutes at a low boil, stirring occasionally. Add liquid as necessary, to maintain creamy texture. When cornmeal is tender and creamy and has lost its “grit”, stir in cheese and olive oil, whisking until smooth.
Note: For helpful hints, see instructional video on Notes from Maggie’s Farm.
Smothered Collard Greens (6-8 1 cup servings):
2 bunches of collard greens, rinsed well, trimmed from stems and separated, leaves thinly shredded and stems sliced thinly (see note, below)
1 small cured ham steak, cut in large dice, to yield 1-2 cups
4 T grapeseed oil, divided
1 small bulb spring garlic, peeled and minced finely
6 spring onions (roughly golf to tennis ball-sized), peeled and sliced thinly
2 t salt
1 t cracked red pepper flakes
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 cup stock or water
Pat cleaned and trimmed collard greens dry and set aside.
In a heavy bottomed pan, cook chopped ham slowly, rendering fat over medium low heat. When firm, add grapeseed oil to rendered fat to make approximately 2 tablespoons. Add minced garlic and sauté with ham, stirring frequently over medium heat, until golden. Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Add enough grapeseed oil to pan to yield approximately 2 tablespoons. Sauté sliced onions with sliced collard green stems until wilted. Add shredded leaves to pan, and return ham and garlic mixture, combining all well. Season with salt, red pepper flakes, and balsamic vinegar, stirring well. Add stock or water to pan, bring to a healthy simmer, cover, and cook until wilted, about 20 minutes or to desired tenderness. Correct seasonings.
Note: For instructional video on cleaning and trimming collard greens, visit Notes from Maggie’s Farm.
To serve, mound polenta on plate or rimmed soup bowl, spoon collard greens in the center, and top with freshly-fried soft shell crabs. Enjoy.
Photo Credit: Maggie C. Perkins, of Notes from Maggie’s Farm.