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Soft shell crabs are a staple in Maryland where blue crabs are a regional specialty, but you can find them all along the Eastern Seaboard in the spring and summer months during molting season. Believe it or not, you can eat the entire crab, shell and all.
Don’t be intimidated by frying crabs at home. Fernanda walks you through the entire cooking process in this video. You just need about an inch of neutral oil, such as canola, and a couple of shallow bowls to dredge the crabs. In this recipe, Chef Fernanda uses a mixture of flour and cornstarch to give the crabs a crispier texture.
The chili lime aioli starts with pre-made mayonnaise, and it could not be more effortless. The aioli benefits from being made in advance, as it allows time for the flavor to develop. If you have all the elements ready before you start cooking the crabs, the execution of this dish will go smoothly, and you can build your sandwiches while the crabs are hot.
Recipe by Chef Fernanda Tapia. Fernanda is an award-winning Boston-based private chef. You can follow Chef Fernanda on Instagram.
In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, chili lime spice, and lime juice until well combined. Set aside until ready to serve.
You can make this aioli ahead of time, and it tastes even better when it has a chance for the flavor to develop.
Heat about 1 inch of oil in a wide vessel to about 350 degrees.
Pat crabs dry very well with paper towels.
In a shallow bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, and salt. Pour the buttermilk into a separate shallow bowl.
Coat one crab with the flour mixture. Then dip it into the buttermilk before applying a final coat of flour. Immediately place the crab in the hot oil. Repeat with remaining crabs. Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to fry the crabs in batches.
Fry crabs for about 2 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. Carefully remove crabs from the oil and rest on a wire rack or a plate lined with paper towels. Salt crabs immediately and set aside to cool slightly while you start building the sandwiches.
Toast your buns while you gather all your sandwich components. If you need to re-crisp your bacon, do so while your crabs are frying. Once all the elements are ready to go, you can start building the sandwiches.
Lay the bottom buns on plates and smear aioli on top. Layer lettuce, tomato and bacon over the aioli. Place a fried soft shell crab on top of each layered pile and drizzle with extra aioli before closing with the top bun.
Serve each sandwich with a lime wedge on the side.