Monday, April 17, 2017

Cornmeal Crusted Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches

Soft shell crab season will be here soon! Actually, I'm flying down to Florida this coming weekend and I'm pretty sure it's already soft shell crab season in the south.

In the northeast, it's traditionally marked by the first full moon in May and the season lasts through early fall. Blue crabs begin to molt their hard shell and then they become 100% delicious, instead of like, 30% delicious, 70% shell. There's a v. short time frame to keep them in their soft shell state; as soon as they molt, there's just a few hours before their shells start to harden again so they have to be removed from the water before that happens.

During our regular visits to Denville Seafood, we see soft shell crabs on offer here and there. Ideally, the crabs should be alive; soft shell crabs don't move much but they should still be moving. If they've already been killed and cleaned by your fishmonger, you should plan on cooking them that v. day (or freezing them immediately) because they will go off rather swiftly.
Ingredients [serves 2]:
cornmeal crusted soft shell crab
2 soft shell crabs, cleaned
¼ cup flour
1 egg
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup cornmeal
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil

mango & red cabbage slaw
1 mango, julienned
½ cup shredded red cabbage
1 scallion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

sandwich
2 buns
1 tablespoon butter

Cleaned crabs will have their little faces snipped off, the aprons ripped off, and gills removed.
Dredge the crabs in flour.
Beat together the buttermilk and egg and give the crabs a bath.
Finally, give the crabs a coating in the seasoned cornmeal.
Grab a skillet and heat over medium high with a good glug of olive oil and a generous pat of butter. I know I listed quantities but ideally there should be a good ¼" of fat in the bottom of the pan.
When the pan is good and hot, nestle the crab right in and gently fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until they're lovely and golden and crisp.
Because we had a couple of buns left in the pantry (from burger night), I decided I wanted to turn these into sandwiches and then I decided I wanted the sandwiches to have a really delicious, bright slaw.
For this super easy slaw, combine red cabbage, julienned mango, scallion, and chopped cilantro in a bowl.
Grate in some lime zest and squeeze in the juice of a lime. The lime really makes this slaw so don't skip it.
Grind in a little coarse salt and pepper and give the whole thing a toss and that's the slaw; done. This is best if it's sat around for an hour or two so if you have the time, make it before you delve into the crab.
To assemble the sandwich, toast a few buns in butter. I like a really soft, potato bun for this sandwich because the pillowy softness in contrast to the crunchy crab is just the best.
Pile a little slaw on the bottom bun, nestle the crab onto the slaw bed, and then top with the other half of the buttered and toasted bun.
Serve with extra slaw, some kettle-cooked salt & vinegar chips, and a cup of soup, if you are so inclined. This soup was inspired by Manhattan clam chowder, except without clam because we didn't have any. Basically, it started with celery and onions in a pot with bacon fat. I added in some potato, a cup of tomato puree, two to three cups of chicken stock, and let it bubble away. And then I finished it with shell pasta to keep it nautically themed.
The crab has a deliciously crisp and crunchy exterior, the meat inside is delicately sweet and tender, the slaw is bright and punchy and adds a nice sweet and tangy bite that really complements the crab; this is just the perfect sandwich. I love the ease of eating soft shell crab and the amount of meat you get is just so satisfying when you compare it to feeling of mining for ore that you get when you're eating regular crab.
Here are the recipe pages:

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