Chesapeake Chef: Soft-shell Crab Benediction 

May means the return of crab season, just in time for the return of full-on boating season.

May means the return of crab season, just in time for the return of full-on boating season. To celebrate, CBM creative director Caroline Foster shares one of her favorite recipes, created in the galley of the J42 where she and husband Doug lived at the time. 

“Benediction was a brilliant name created by auto-correct. After a taste test, my daughter Evelyn texted me, ‘Holy moly, that was good. What do you call it?’ At which point, Soft-shell Crab Eggs Benedict became “Benediction” and whoosh … it was out on Facebook. Heavenly, blessed, and divine as it is, the name was befitting.

“This seasonal Chesapeake breakfast is a trifecta of not-so-easy culinary skills: perfectly poached eggs, sautéed soft-shelled crabs, and hollandaise sauce. The first time I made it, we were underway with six people on board, including a film director who planned a 360º panorama VR filming of the event. It was 99º on the Bay, 56% humidity, winds 0-5 (mostly 0). I was in the galley with my Force 10 range full-on, toasting English muffins, heating pans of hot oil and boiling water, reciting my benediction that the hollandaise would thicken, the poached eggs wouldn’t fall apart, and the legs of the crabs wouldn’t stick together. I’m happy to report, it all worked —and it will in a land-locked kitchen as well.”


INGREDIENTS
6 cleaned soft-shell crabs 

BREADING 
1 cup flour 
1/2 cup self-rising corn meal 
3 teaspoons garlic powder 
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
2 teaspoons thyme 
3 teaspoons kosher salt 
1 teaspoon black pepper 

EGG WASH
1/3 cup evaporated milk 
2 eggs, lightly beaten 
2 tablespoons water 

ALSO NEEDED
4 cups canola oil 
6 English muffins, halved 
2 cups watercress 
2 tomatoes, sliced 
Soft butter spread 
Minced chives for garnish 
Fresh ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Preheat your oven to hot. Or if you have a broiler, use that. Lay your 12 muffin slices on a baking sheet and toast in your hot oven until they just start to crisp. Remove from oven, lightly butter each half, and wrap them in a towel to stay warm. 

FRIED SOFT-SHELL CRABS
Mix all of the breading ingredients together in a shallow pan. Mix all of the egg wash ingredients together in another shallow pan. Meanwhile, heat up the canola oil to 375º in a large pot.* Dredge one crab at a time, first in the flour mixture, then in the egg mixture, then back to the flour mixture. Shake and carefully place in the hot oil. Fry for 2 minutes, turn over with metal tongs, and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. 

* For a low-tech oil temperature check, put a popcorn kernel in your oil. It will pop when your oil reaches 350º–360º.


HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:
9 tablespoons butter, melted 
3 large or 4 medium egg yolks 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste 
1-2 pinches cayenne pepper 

DIRECTIONS:
Melt butter in a small pan on your stove. While the butter is melting, separate your eggs and place the yolks in your hand-cranked processor with the beater element attached. Add the lemon juice, salt, and cayenne and beat for about 30 seconds. While beating, slowly pour in the melted butter and continue to crank for one to two minutes until thickened. You’ll find this amazingly similar to winching in the jib sheet. 

NOTE: The sauce can be set aside at room temperature for up to one hour. If you plan to make your sauce ahead of time, keep it in your ice box and re-whip when needed, adding a little hot water.

ASSEMBLY: Lay two English muffin halves on each plate, touching. Place a small handful of watercress on each muffin, then lay a slice of tomato on each half (two tomato slices per plate). Top with a fried soft-shell crab. Carefully slide a poached egg onto the crab. Then pour the hollandaise sauce over your masterpiece and sprinkle on some chopped chives and fresh ground pepper. Serve the first plate to your hungriest guest and continue on with the rest.


** THE PERFECTLY POACHED EGG

INGREDIENTS:

6 large eggs
3″ of boiling water in a pan
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

Fill your pan with four inches of water and bring to a low boil. Break an egg into a small measuring cup. Once your water is at a good simmer (not quite a rolling boil), stir in the teaspoon of vinegar and continue stirring in the center to create a funnel of simmering water. Gently pour your egg into this funnel and let poach for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.