Soft-Shell Crab Toasts
Over the years my love for crabs has grown steadily. I set my culinary calendar for the soft-shell crab season and eat them as often as I can. Freshness is paramount. When taken straight from the water, especially in the Mid-Atlantic coastal states, the intense saline brightness is almost oyster-ish in its flavor, the textures are singular and the meat is sweet as candy. This is the time of year to avoid the frozen blue swimmer imports that seem to populate every crab shack and sushi bar during the rest of the year. May is the time to celebrate the true soft crab of the East, the Chesapeake blue. All it takes is a quick snip of a scissor to take off the “eyes” and a pull from under the carapace to free and discard the lungs, and these little lovelies are ready for action. When they are super fresh, their briny intensity is unrivaled. Serving them on toast as an open-face sandwich remains one of my favorite treatments.
Soft-Shell Crab Toasts
- Four 1/2-inch-thick slices of country boule, toasted
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, plus softened butter for brushing
- 1 large tomato, cut into 8 thin slices
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 8 medium to large soft-shell crabs, cleaned and patted dry
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Brush the toast with softened butter and transfer to 4 plates. Arrange two slices of tomato on each slice of bread and season with salt and pepper.
Spread the flour in a shallow bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, melt the 1/2 stick of butter. Dredge 4 of the crabs in the flour and add to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip the crabs and cook until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes longer. Stack 2 crabs on each toast. Repeat with the remaining crabs.
Add the shallot to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the crabs and serve right away.