Soft-Shell Crabs with Salty Tomato Butter


Soft-shell crab season, which generally lasts from May through June is short and highly anticipated. That’s because soft-shell crabmeat is unbelievably tender and buttery-sweet, and the shell, which you eat along with the meat, is perfectly crunchy without being the least bit tough or chewy. True fanatics don’t let a moment of soft-shell crab season go to waste, eating them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, in sandwiches or served solo. Ask your fishmonger to clean them for you.

Serves 2 to 4

Canola oil, for sauteing
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Dash of hot sauce
4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned
Salty Tomato Butter (recipe follows)
1 lemon, cut into wedges

1. Fill a large skillet with enough canola oil to cover the bottom and place over medium-high heat until sizzling hot. Combine the flour and cornmeal in a shallow bowl or plastic bag, season with salt and black pepper to taste and cayenne, and stir or shake to mix. Place the buttermilk and hot sauce in a shallow bowl and stir to combine. One at a time, dust the crabs lightly on both sides with the flour mixture or shake in the bag, then dip into the buttermilk mixture and back into the flour mixture to coat evenly, shaking off any excess flour.

2. Place the crabs in the hot oil and saute for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown and crispy. Line a platter with a brown paper bag.

3. Remove from the skillet, drain on the platter, and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm topped with slices of Salty Tomato Butter and lemon wedges to squeeze over the crab.

Salty Tomato Butter

Makes one 4 to 5-inch log or about 1/2 cup

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (substitute: dried and reconstituted)
6 fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon coarse or flaky sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the butter, tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and pulse until well combined and blended, stopping to scrape down the bowl several times as you go. Transfer the mixture to a piece of wax paper, roll it into a log 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, or for up to 1 week. Slice into thin rounds as needed.