While wandering through the seafood section of Whole Foods today, I saw some beautiful soft shell crabs. I'd never seen them at Whole Foods before, and at $4.99 a piece, I thought they weren't too overly expensive (tell me if I'm wrong). Still, I stood there for an awkward 5 minutes just looking back and forth between the seafood guy and the soft shell crabs, trying to decide whether or not I wanted to buy the crabs and attempt frying something for the first time. In the end, I bought them.
Frying also turned out to be a lot less scarier than I had made it out to be in my head. I imagined oil splashing out of the pan and attacking my tong-wielding hand, or even overflowing oil bubbling out of the pot. Neither actually happened. It was actually quite drama free, and the results were so satisfactory, I might start frying things more.
So here is a little recipe of what I did today. Everything occurred on a whim and some parts might benefit from a little more refinement or planning ahead, but the entire dish took less than 30 minutes from start to finish.
Soft Shell Crabs with White Corn Relish
makes two servings
for the sweet corn relish:
1 ear white corn
1/2 jalepeno, finely diced
1/2 fresno chili, finely diced
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 small clove of garlic, minced
juice of one lime
Place the entire ear of corn, husk, silk, and all in a microwave and cook on high for 3 minutes. If the corn is already husked, loosely wrap a damp paper towel around it instead. While it is cooking, seed and dice the chili peppers, mince the shallot and garlic, and mix it all together in a bowl with the lime juice. Once the corn is cooked, shock it in some ice cold water. When it is cool enough to handle, cut off the kernels and add it to the bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. This can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.
for the chili vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon sushi vinegar (sweetened rice wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Whisk together and set aside.
for the cilantro oil:
handful cilantro leaves
handful parsley leaves
Today, I just threw all the ingredients into a mortar and pestle and went at it. If I was planning ahead, I would pull out the food processor, blend them all together, set it sit in the fridge, and then strain through a paper towel for a more vibrant, pure, green oil. Next time!
for the cornmeal-crusted soft shell crabs:2 cleaned soft shell crabs
2 tablespoon corn meal
2 tablespoon all purpose flour
Mix together the cornmeal, flour, some salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil on the bottom of a deep frying pan. Soak the whole soft shell crabs in enough buttermilk to cover while the oil heats up. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, shake off excess buttermilk from the crabs and dip in the cornmeal mixture. Shake off excess and gently place the crabs in the hot oil. It should start sizzling right away. Cook each side until golden brown, flipping once. Remove from pan and drain the excess oil off the crabs on a paper towel.
Arrange corn relish on the center of the plate. Cut the soft shell crab in half and place on top of the corn. Drizzle cilantro oil and sriracha vinaigrette around the plate. Garnish with cilantro leaves and cilantro flowers.