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  • Writer's pictureJohn Painter

Molting green crabs

Though I enjoy eating hard shell green crabs, in the spring when they molt and become as they are called in Italian "moeche' (mo-ek-ay) they become a special treat and the entire crab can be eaten soft shell and all.

The first step of molting green crabs is sorting the catch, differentiating crabs which are likely to molt 'pre-molt' from crabs which are not molting 'inter-molt'. This is one of the tricky parts of of fishing green crabs, because they do not show a lot of signs of being pre-molt but the most recognizable is when they begin to develop a grey shadow along the edge of the plates of their abdomen, in the photos you can see that shadow (which gets much deeper) starting to show just to the left of the red marks on the crabs abdomen.

While there is still no way to artificially induce molting, we need to separate the ones which show signs of pre-molt from crabs which do not, inter-molt, and we do this by putting them into special containers, condos, which separate the crabs from each other so that when they begin to molt, the others don't cannibalize them. At this stage they need to be monitored regularly because once they molt they need to be quickly removed from the water or their shells will begin to harden again. The moeche can survive several days out of the water in this state as long as they are kept cool, like in a fridge.

There are many ways moeche can be eaten, but one of my new favorites is moeche carbonara. Literally just a carbonara with moeche which have been lightly pan roasted with garlic, and not the typical pancetta.

These moeche have been cut in half and the tips of their legs, claws and mouth cut off. I also remove the carapace, which is purely aesthetic, since they tend to just fall off when the crabs are cut in half anyway. Once they a lightly pan fried, they come off the heat and pasta, usually a thin spaghetti or fettuccine are added along with three egg yolks, fresh cracked pepper, some fresh parmesan, a little chopped parsley and a little pasta water to bring it together. It's fantastic!

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