Fried Softshell Crab

To me, softshell crab is the one and only taste of summer. If you've never had them, they are blue crabs that are in the midst of shedding their shells, rendering the entire crab, claws and all, edible. The season is fleeting, which makes it that much more delicious to me. They taste only lightly of crab and mostly of the sea. What they lack in pure taste, they make up for in fun and texture. This double-dredge is the best way to amplify the subtle crab flavor and maximize crunchiness. And the fried garlic sauce just takes everything over the top.

Ingredients:

  • 4 softshell crabs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons yellow corn grits (aka polenta)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups peanut oil

Fried Garlic Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard

Slaw Ingredients:

  • ½ small white or green cabbage
  • ½ small red onion
  • White distilled, white wine, or rice vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Clean the crabs by first cutting off the face with a sharp pair of shears. Press on the front of the crab to expel the sand sacs. Lift each wing and snip out the beige lungs. Lift the apron and cut off close to the body. Place on paper towels and dry very well.
  2. On a large plate, combine the flour, Old Bay, grits and salt. Into a second plate, crack and mix the eggs.
  3. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil to about 350-365°F. While the oil is heating, dust each crab into the flour, then egg, then back into the flour.
  4. Fry crabs two at a time for 4 minutes on the first side, then 4 to 5 minutes on the second side. Be very careful to lay the crabs into the hot oil quickly and away from you. Once the crabs are in the oil, stand well away — they are filled with so much water that steam will build up, and they will pop violently at least once; a metal splatter guard is a huge help here.
  5. Carefully remove the crabs from the oil and drain on brown paper or paper towels. If you've left the heat on, the oil should be a good bit above 350°F. Add the two cloves of garlic and turn the heat off. Fry until deeply golden brown but not burnt.
  6. While the garlic is frying, very finely slice the cabbage and red onion, and toss with a splash of vinegar, just enough to moisten. Thoroughly distribute the onion through the cabbage.
  7. Once the garlic cloves are ready, mash with a big pinch of salt and mix in with the cabbage and red onion.
  8. Serve the crab on a buttered toasted bun with plenty of fried garlic sauce, hot sauce (Texas Pete or Frank's Red Hot), and slaw. The firecracker garnish is optional but awesome.