Deep Fried Soft Crab and Artichokes: the recipe from Venice
A recipe from Venice's famous restaurant Vecio Fritolin, traditional "moeche" and "botoi", soft shell crabs and artichokes
1. Remove the outer leaves from the artichokes, peel the stem with a small curved knife. Remove and throw away the thorny tip of the artichoke. Cut it in half and cover them with fresh milk. Beat the eggs in a bowl and soak the live crabs in the egg mix for 5-6 minutes. Heat up the oil and, when reaches 165 ° C, lower the heat.
2. Prepare a bowl of flour, then drain the artichokes and the soft shell crabs. The point about soaking the crabs in the egg batter is that the eggs help the flour to stick firmly on the shell of the crab making them crispy when fried. But at the same time, since the live crabs will eat part of the batter, the eggs will also provide a sort of “filling” -it can sound somehow cruel, but it’s delicious! Sprinkle the crabs and artichokes with flour, then shake off the extra flour using a sieve.
3. Raise the heat and deep fry the crabs and artichokes until crispy (pay attention to maintain the oil temperature between 165° and 180°).
4. Drain on a paper straw and gently pat dry with kitchen paper, add a little salt and serve on a sheet of clean straw paper. * Moeche: “moeche” is a venitian dialect term for “soft shell crab”. It is a common specie of green crab (carcinus maenas) found nearly everywhere in the lagoon, as well as in the canals and coastal areas. When the crab moulds its carapace –it happens twice a year, in autumn and spring- it is called “moeca” (meaning “soft”)
** Botoi: an early stage of evolution of the artichoke flower bud, measuring between 5 and 6 cm. The local variety of artichoke is grown in S. Erasmo island. It’s a tulip-shaped purple artichoke with a slightly bitter and salty taste, due to the peculiar soil composition of venetian islands. It once was -and still partly is- fertilized with crushed crab shells. The variety is called “Violetto of St. Erasmo” and is protected by the Slow Food organization.