How do you celebrate the Preakness Stakes here in Florida? With blue crabs, of course. Long a staple of the Chesapeake Bay region, when talking Baltimore cuisine, blue crab is never far off the mark. Here, we’re offering up a crab-topped eggs benedict recipe for the morning, a true-blue Baltimore seafood dish for the race.
For Baltimoreans, there’s nothing better than soft crab. Better known as soft-shell crab outside the Chesapeake, these are blue crabs that are currently molting—essentially shedding its exoskeleton in order to grow and mate—making the crab soft. A true delicacy, the fried soft-shell crab sandwich has become rite of spring, and the perfect pre-Preakness bite.
First, a little advice on picking out the right soft crab.
- Soft crabs, like oysters, clams, and lobster, should be alive when purchased—when you pick them up, they should move a little, not just dangle limply.
- Buy the softest crab you can find, but don’t squeeze the crab in the center—you can damage the gills and kill the crab. Try pinching the claws—have no fear, they can’t snap shut—if they are soft, you found a winner.
- When preparing the soft shells, just about the entire crab is edible, except the eyes/mouth, gills, and apron (the abdomen). So, when it comes to cleaning the crab, there are a few simple ways of doing the deed: simply snip the eye/mouth parts off with a pair of kitchen sheers; lift each side of the crab’s shell (facing up), and remove the gills with a paring knife; and finally, turn the crab over and remove the apron (the little trapezoid-shaped portion) with a paring knife.
- If all of this is a little much—mind you, the crab is alive when you are doing this—have your fishmonger clean those soft crabs. Just be sure to cook the crabs the same day they are cleaned. For soft-shelled crab here in Naples, head to a reputable fish market, like Swan RIver Seafood.
Now that the crabs are cleaned and ready for cooking, I want to let you in on the not-so-secret, secret ingredient for the best tasting, authentic soft crab dish: Old Bay Seasoning. The celery salt-based seasoning is great on just about any seafood dish, but when it comes Chesapeake-sourced seafood, it’s a must. Do yourself a favor and buy a can, it should be in any well-stocked spice rack.
Soft Crab Sandwich
- 12 medium soft-shell blue crabs
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup milk
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning, divided
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- Canola oil for frying
- Sea salt
- Pour oil into a large skillet, cast iron if available, to a depth of a half inch, and heat over medium-high heat until oil bubbles when adding a pinch of flour.
- Rinse cleaned crabs under cold running water; pat dry with paper towels.
- In small bowl, combine eggs, milk and pinch of salt; whisked.
- In a second bowl, combine flour, 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning, and cayenne pepper.
- In a third bowl, whisk panko breadcrumbs and remaining 1 tsp. of Old Bay Seasoning,
- Dredge crab in flour mixture, shake off excess; then coat in egg, allowing excess drip back into bowl. Coat with breadcrumb mixture.
- Cook crabs in a single layer for 4 minutes or until golden.
- Drain on absorbent paper.
- ¼ cup of mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp. whole grain mustard
- ¼ tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Fried soft shell crab
- Egg bun
- Crabby Sauce
- Tomato, lettuce and onion
Warm the egg bun. Spread a hearty dose of crabby sauce on both the top and bottom portion of the bun. Build your crab-wich and enjoy.
When it comes to horseracing parties, it is of vital import to load up on some carbs well before those Black-Eyed Susans begin to flow. While soft crab sandwiches are reserved for afternoon dining, one can start the day of with some blue crab fun in the a.m. Give this recipe for blue crab cake benedict, by way of Florida’s official chef Justin Timineri.
Blue Crab Cake Benedict
- ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
- 3 tbsp. light mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- ¾ tsp. seafood seasoning
- ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
- 1 pound crabmeat, drained, shell pieces removed
- 1 ½ cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs), divided
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 eggs, pan fried
- 1 large tomato, sliced
- Combine first seven ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Gently fold in crabmeat and 3/4 cup panko crumbs.
- Cover and chill 30 minutes.
- Shape the crab mixture into 8 patties about 3/4-inch thick.
- In a shallow dish, roll patties in remaining 3/4 cup panko crumbs, coating evenly.
- In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat oil and cook 4 crab cakes at a time for 7 minutes until golden brown on each side.
- 3 eggs, yolks separated
- ¼ tsp. Dijon style mustard
- ½ lemon, juiced
- Hot pepper sauce, to taste
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- Sea salt to taste
- In a blender or food processor, add mustard, lemon juice, egg yolks and a few dashes of hot pepper sauce.
- Blend ingredients and slowly add the melted butter until the ingredients thicken.
- Taste hollandaise and adjust seasoning with salt and hot pepper sauce.
- Serve sauce immediately.
- To assemble Florida Blue Crab Cake Benedict, place one or two slices of tomato on each plate.
- Season the tomato lightly with salt and pepper.
- Place a pan fried egg over each tomato slice.
- Add a crab cake to the top of each pan fried egg.
- Evenly distribute the hollandaise sauce over the top of each crab cake and serve immediately.