Soft-Shell Crabs with Garlic-Herb Vinaigrette
Eric: I discovered soft-shell crabs when I was working at Jean-Louis Palladin's restaurant in Washington, D.C., but it wasn't until I made a pilgrimage with Jean-Louis to Jimmy Snead's restaurant on the Chesapeake Bay that I became a true believer. Jimmy definitely has the best soft-shells in the United States, and now his standards are my standards. These crabs must be soft as velvet. I like them best with a vinaigrette, not a butter or bacon sauce; it's lighter and fresher.
Maguy: The first year in New York we didn't serve soft-shell crabs because we didn't know what they were. If a fisherman in Brittany ever caught a crab without its shell, he'd throw it back in the water.
Total Timeunder 30 minutes
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Recipe Courseappetizer, main course
Dietary Considerationappetizer, main course
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturecrisp, herby, savory
- 1 ripe tomato
- 3/4 cup Vinaigrette
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- Small pinch cayenne
- 4 soft-shell crabs
- Superfine flour, such as Wondra
- 2 teaspoons corn oil
- 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh chervil
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
- Two 10-inch nonstick skillets
1 Peel and seed the tomato. Cut it lengthwise into ¼-inch-wide strips. Set aside.
2 Put the vinaigrette in a bowl and whisk in the garlic and cayenne. Set aside.
3 Just before cooking, clean the soft-shell crabs: Pull off the underbelly flap and gills and cut off the eyes. Put a little flour in a tea strainer and sift just enough over the crabs to lightly coat both sides.
4 Put 1 teaspoon of oil in each skillet and place over high heat. When the oil is just smoking, add 2 crabs to each pan. Sauté until brown and crisp, about 1½ minutes per side.
5 Stir the herbs into the vinaigrette. Spoon about 2 tablespoons onto the center of 6 dinner plates. Use the back of the spoon to spread the vinaigrette into a 6-inch circle. Arrange strips of tomato in a circle, spoke-fashion, with half of each strip in and half out of the vinaigrette.
6 Split each crab in half and place over the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
1998 Eric Ripert and Maguy Le Coze