This is another of the recipes that I had scheduled before leaving for Italy last April. Most will be held until next year when they better match the season. Because soft shell crabs are still available, even if frozen, I decided to go ahead and publish this recipe.
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In the first soft shell crab recipe I shared, it was mentioned that I was introduced to them at a restaurant in The Loop. For lunch that day, the crabs were served open-faced on a baguette. Since then, although I’ve enjoyed them several ways, that first meal has always been on my mind. I’ve since replicated the dish but, rather than open-faced, I prefer to serve them in the style of a po’ boy sandwich.
Like beignets at the Cafe du Monde, po’ boy sandwiches are a signature dish of New Orleans. Whether the protein used is meat or seafood, all are served on a relatively thinly crusted French roll with lettuce, very often sliced tomato, and a sauce. That sauce could be an aioli, rémoulade, tartar sauce, or even just plain mayo. For me, a well-made po’ boy is about as good a sandwich that there is.
When I first tried to make a soft shell crab po’ boy, I experimented with batters to coat the crabs. Although each attempt was tasty, the crab wasn’t as crispy as I wanted. I then switched over to using Panko bread crumbs but first I coated the crabs in corn starch before dipping them in the egg and dredging them in the bread crumbs. Once fried, I used them in a sandwich made with freshly baked rolls, a spicy garlic aioli, and with tomatoes out of season, I added a bit of pickle on top. The result? Well, I swore that I heard singing as I took that first bite. OK, maybe that was just me but it sure was a tasty sandwich!
The recipe itself is very easy to follow. I’ve included links and recipes should you wish to duplicate the sandwich exactly.
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Soft Shell Crab Po’ Boy Sandwich Recipe
- Soft shell crabs, cleaned
- enough corn starch to cover each crab
- salt, pepper, sweet paprika, to taste (See Notes)
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- about 2 tbsp milk
- Panko breadcrumbs to coat each crab
- oil for frying (I used grape seed oil)
for the aioli
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 3 roasted garlic cloves, smashed (see Notes for recipe)
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 to 3 tbsp Sriracha sauce, more/less to taste
- 6 to 8 oz (177 ml to 237 ml) olive oil (see Notes)
- salt and pepper, to taste
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- Make the aioli:
- Place the egg yolk, lemon juice, garlic, Dijon mustard, and Sriracha sauce into the bowl of a food processor.
- Season lightly with salt and pepper and process.
- Once fully combined and while the processor continues to run, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream until the aioli reaches the consistency you prefer.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using.
- Set up a breading station:
- In a not-too-shallow dish, combine the corn starch, salt, pepper, and paprika. Use a whisk to mix thoroughly.
- In another equally shallow dish, add the egg & milk and stir to combine .
- In a 3rd dish, create an even layer of Panko breadcrumbs.
- Meanwhile, begin heating the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. You want the oil to be a depth of about an inch and to reach a temperature of about 165˚ F.
- When the oil nears the correct temperature, dredge the crabs in the dry flour mixture. before giving them a bath in the egg mixture.
- Remove the crabs and allow the excess egg mixture to drain a bit before placing each in the Panko breadcrumbs. Be sure each crab is evenly coated with breadcrumbs before placing in the hot oil. The crabs will spatter when they hit the oil, so, be very careful not to burn your hands/fingers.
- The crabs will reach golden brown in about 2 minutes. Carefully flip each one and continue frying an additional 2 minutes or until the crabs are evenly colored. Frying times may vary depending upon the pan size, heat/flame setting, and number of crabs being fried simultaneously. Keep an eye on them.
- Remove crabs to drain on paper towels and season with salt before placing on a serving platter.
- Bring to the table with sliced rolls, lettuce, the aioli, pickles, tomato slices, lemon wedges, and/or whatever condiments you prefer.
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Knowing that the aioli was flavorful as well as spicy, I used a light hand when seasoning the components of the dish. Of course, you’re free to season the dish as much, or as little, as you like.
One of the key points of a true Po’ Boy sandwich is the bread. A form of French bread, the rolls have an even crumb and relatively soft crust. The crunch in this sandwich is on the inside. (Pssst. It’s the crabs.) I found a recipe for New Orleans French bread on the Saveur website and enjoyed it very much. I did halve the recipe, however, since I didn’t wish to watch bread go stale on my counter top.
Although I used olive oil to make my aioli, you may prefer to use a lighter oil instead.
To roast garlic:
- Pre-heat oven to 400˚ F (200˚ C)
- Use a sharp knife to cut off the top of a whole garlic bulb.
- Place the bottom section, cut-side up, in a piece of aluminum foil.
- Drizzle the bulb with olive oil before sealing the foil around the bulb.
- Bake in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes.
- Cool before using.
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It’s déjà vu all over again …
Have too large a harvest of zucchini come August? Well, why not stuff a few blossoms now and get ahead of the problem? Today’s look back will show you how it’s done. All you need do now is to click HERE.
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Coming soon to a monitor near you …
Beef Bone Marrow Risotto with Porcini and Morel Mushrooms
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