There have been studies that prove that the crunchy sound of eating crisp food stimulates the appetite. Surely, along with the fresh, briny flavor, this is the attraction of the soft-shell crab, one of the true glories of summer eating. The best way to enjoy the crabs is to play up their crackly edible shell with a batter coating.
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 6 slices thick-sliced bacon
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned (see Note)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 4 soft sandwich buns, toasted
- 2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 8 thin slices
- 4 leaves green lettuce
1. Mix the mayonnaise, chives, and tarragon in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Cut each strip in half to make 12 pieces total. Pour out and reserve the bacon fat. Wipe the skillet clean with paper towels.
3. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Whisk the eggs in a shallow dish. Mix the flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a second dish. Dip each crab in the eggs, then in the flour to coat completely. Transfer to the baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes to set the crust.
4. Heat the oil and reserved bacon fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Carefully add the crabs to the skillet. (The crabs could splatter, so be careful.) Cook until the undersides are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a thin slotted metal spatula, turn the crabs and cook to brown the other sides, about 3 minutes more. Using the spatula, transfer the crabs to paper towels to drain briefly.
5. Spread the buns with the herb mayonnaise. Top each bottom bun half with a crab, 3 bacon slices, 2 tomato slices, and a lettuce leaf, then the top bun half. Cut each sandwich in half and serve immediately.