While I’ve spent the past 10 years in Chicago (wow, time really flies), am an East Coaster all the way. Grew up in Maryland, attended the University of Maryland (go Terps!), and love the Chesapeake blue crab (in my humble opinion, the best type of crab; maybe I’m a bit biased). Chesapeake blue crab is the one thing I missed the most while living in Chicago — not a lot of local seafood, let alone blue crabs, to be found in Chicago).
Nothing better than a warm summer day, a bushel of crabs, and cold beer. Love getting dirty and digging out every last morsel of crab meat with my bare hands. The difference between soft shell and hard shell crabs? Basically, soft shell crabs have molted their shell. I’ve been eyeing them at the Dupont Farmers’ Market for the past few months, but never had a game plan for what to do with them. After a little contemplation, I went for it, purchased my first soft shell crab, and couldn’t wait to go home and prepare it. And…it was better than I imagined! Why did it take me so long to discover soft shell crabs??
I prepared the soft shell crab very simply — lightly dredged in flour, a little salt and pepper, and pan seared until crispy. Placed the crab on a homemade flatbread (with za’atar) and topped it with shredded purple cabbage (minimally dressed with a squeeze of lime and a little sea salt), homemade aioli, and a few slices of heirloom tomatoes. Kept the condiments simple to ensure that the crab was the star of the show.
Might have to get another crab at the market on Sunday.
This is one messy sandwich, but oh so good…
Soft Shell Crab Sandwich
Soft shell crab, cleaned (1 per sandwich)
All-purpose flour for dredging
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup oil
Homemade za atar flatbread (refer to this post)
Homemade aioli (refer to this post)
1/2 head purple cabbage, shredded (used a mandoline)
Squeeze of lime
Place the cabbage in a bowl. Squeeze half a lime over the cabbage. Season with salt. Mix to incorporate. Set in the refrigerator to chill.
Dredge the crab(s) in flour. Shake off excess flour. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 1 minute. Add the oil. When hot (but not smoking) turn the heat down to medium, lay the crab(s) in the pan, soft-shell side down. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. When the first side is crisp, turn the crab(s) over and cook another 3 minutes, until cooked through. Remove the crab(s) from the pan, and drain on a towel-lined plate.
Assemble the sandwich. Place a few slices of tomato on the pita, followed by the crab. Top with cabbage, aioli, and a squeeze of lime.