When a fried soft shell crab sandwich marries a BLT this crunchy, salty and indulgent progeny is the delicious result. This decadent sandwich will be the hit of your next gathering.
2 pounds, cleaned soft shell crab (Hotel size or larger)
Oven roasted tomatoes made from 12 plum tomatoes (takes about 3 hours) or 24 Pearl or cocktail tomatoes (takes about 1 1/2 hours)
1 .5 pounds thick cut bacon, fried or oven baked (I prefer to oven bake bacon in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes)
3/4 cup flour
2 T Old Bay seasoning, divided
2 t cayenne pepper, divided
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1/4 cup milk
1 t mustard
1 cup panko, divided into two portions
Approximately 3 cups oil for frying. (I use an olive oil that has a high smoke point, but you can use any high smoke point oil, such as avocado, grapeseed or canola oil)
1 head butter lettuce, cleaned and leaves separated
6 - 8 brioche hamburger buns
Defrost the soft shell crab and do not rinse. Place a cookie rack on top of a sheet pan and spread the crabs over the sheet pan. Cover with paper towels and let sit in the fridge for a couple hours to drain and dry. The goal is to have very dry crabs so they fry up nice and crispy.
While the crabs are drying make your roasted tomatoes (this can be done a day or two in advance) and cook your bacon. I like to cook the bacon in a 400 degree oven on a sheet pan for about 10 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp.
When you are ready to cook the crab make the following three bowls to dip the crab in before frying: Bowl 1: 3/4 cup flour + 1 T Old Bay seasoning + 1 t cayenne pepper + kosher salt + fresh ground pepper. Bowl 2: 2 eggs + 1/4 c milk + 1 t mustard. Bowl 3: 1/2 cup panko + 1/2 T Old Bay + 1/2 t cayenne (reserving the extra panko, Old Bay and cayenne for a replacement bowl when the first bowl of panko and seasoning begins to get gummy.)
Dip each crab in bowl number 1, then bowl number 2 and finally bowl number 3. About half way through you will need to replace bowl number 3 with fresh panko and cayenne because it tends to get gummy and the panko stops sticking to the crab. Fresh panko fixes this problem. Lay the thrice dipped crabs on a plate and set aside.
Pull out your largest frying pan. I use a 14" pan. You can also use a large Le Creuset or other deep dish pan that can handle high heat. Pour the olive oil into the pan so that there is 1/2" to 3/4" oil in the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil on high and when it begins to shimmer, test the oil by putting in a pinch of flour. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Working in batches and using tongs, place the crab one by one in the hot pan of oil, making sure not to overcrowd the pan or the crab will steam and be soggy instead of crisp. Cook the Hotel-size crabs about a minute and a half on each side. Larger crabs may take up to 3 - 4 minutes per side. Place a rack over a sheet pan, and when both sides of the crab are cooked transfer them to the rack and allow them to drain until you are ready to serve.
Brush the brioche buns with olive oil and lightly grill or toast the buns under the broiler.
Prepare an assemble-yourself sandwich bar with platters of fried crab, bacon, oven roasted tomatoes, lettuce as well as mayonnaise and sriracha for anyone who wants it. Ring the dinner bell and enjoy!
Time estimate does not include time to roast tomatoes. These will take about 3 hours if you use plum tomatoes. I like to use smaller cocktail or pearl tomatoes for roasting which only take about 1.5 hours. Get the details here. Prep time is about 5 minutes, then your oven does all the work.
Don't have time to roast the tomatoes? Just use nice thick slices of beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes instead.
Recipe by Something New For Dinner at https://somethingnewfordinner.com/recipe/blt-fried-soft-shell-crab-sandwich/