Recipe courtesy of Kevin Johnson and Chuck Hughes

Wood Roasted Soft Shell Crab and Asparagus Salad

  • Level: Advanced
  • Total: 1 hr 10 min
  • Active: 55 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Pancetta Vinagarette:

4 ounces pancetta, very small dice

1 clove garlic, minced 

1 shallot, minced 

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced 

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1/4 cup champagne vinegar 

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 

Scant 1 cup really good olive oil 

Soft Shell Crab and Asparagus Salad:

12 ounces asparagus, trimmed, peeled, blanched for about 10 seconds

Grapeseed or vegetable oil, for drizzling

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned 

4 to 6 small Easter egg radishes, slivered 

1 to 2 spring onions, tops slivered, bottoms minced 

1 stalk green garlic, tops slivered, bottoms minced 

1 small handful torn fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill, tarragon, chervil

1 large handful pea tendrils 


Special equipment:
Wood-fire oven
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Create a fire in a wood-fire oven.
  2. For the vinaigrette: Render the pancetta over low heat in a pan until slightly crisp, and then remove from the pan and reserve the fat. Return a small amount of fat to the pan and gently cook the garlic, shallots, oregano, thyme and some salt and pepper.
  3. Remove from the heat and pour in the vinegar to deglaze (do not simmer to reduce). Scrape up any remaining bits stuck to the pan, then pour into a bowl and whisk in the mustard. Measure the remaining pancetta fat; add enough of the olive oil to make 1 cup. Whisk the oil into the vinegar mixture and season with salt and pepper.
  4. For the salad: Drizzle the asparagus spears with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven and let char until tender but still toothsome.
  5. Sprinkle the crabs with salt and pepper and rub with a small amount of oil. Place on a heatproof pan and into the fire and roast until cooked through.
  6. Combine the radishes, spring onions, green garlic, herbs and pea tendrils in a bowl. Toss with enough vinaigrette to coat. Add a small amount of vinaigrette to the hot pan with the asparagus and coat.
  7. Divide the asparagus among 4 plates and top with the salad and 1 crab each. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.