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.
- 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.
Nutritional information does not include the Vinaigrette. For nutritional information on the Vinaigrette, please follow the link above.