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Saucy Stone Crab Dish

June 23, 1988|KAREN GILLINGHAM | Gillingham is a Los Angeles-based food writer. and

It's a good thing you don't have to go to Miami to eat stone crabs anymore. I'd really be missing something. Luckily, stone crabs now are available in many fish markets. Sure they are usually frozen stone crabs, but that's better than no stone crabs at all (or a trip to Florida just to eat crab--OK, some Key lime pie too).

Stone crabs are all claws, really fat claws. They are flown from Florida to those of us in the other 49 states, sometimes with their rock-hard shells already half sawed away to expose the chubby meat inside. They are heaven on earth (sent from the sea) served cold with a heady horseradish-mustard mayonnaise.

Served in Hot Butter

I still want my share and prefer their plump pincers in a piping hot butter and wine sauce with tarragon. The licorice-scented herb (???) is a wonderful complement to any shellfish, so, if you aren't in or going to the Florida Keys or stone crabs haven't arrived in your fish market, substitute cracked Dungeness or King crab or use large shrimp in place of the stone crab claws.

I like to serve this dish over linguine or fettuccine, but it's not necessary. What is necessary is plenty of hot crusty bread to mop up the sauce when the crab is gone.

HERBED STONE CRAB

6 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon

16 to 20 stone crab claws

1/3 cup dry white wine

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Hot cooked pasta, optional

Salt, pepper

1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

Lemon wedges

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and tarragon and saute until shallots are tender. Add crab claws and saute 1 minute. Stir in wine and lemon juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat, then cover and simmer five minutes.

Meanwhile, arrange hot cooked pasta on four warm plates. Transfer crab to top of pasta. Season liquid in pan to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over crab and pasta. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.

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