Fried Soft-Shell Crabs
You won’t find a more honestly named restaurant than Toups Meatery in New Orleans, where husband and wife Isaac and Amanda Toups serve up fork-tender beef ribs, double-cut pork chops in dirty rice, and side dishes of house-made boudin, cracklings, and head cheese. Even the doberge cake has bacon in the icing.
That’s not to say that chef Isaac, who grew up two hours away from the Crescent City in the small town of Rayne, Louisiana, overlooks seafood. Toups cooks soft-shell crabs with Cajun gusto, crusting them with buttermilk and pulverized local rice before dropping them into a bubbling vat of peanut oil. He serves the fried crabs with a hunk of French bread, a swipe of lemon aioli, and a mound of cabbage cooked in bacon fat with pickled peppers and green onions. The result is a hedonistic mélange of textures and flavors not unlike New Orleans itself. Pair it with plenty of cold beer.
FOR THE CRABS
Peanut oil, for frying
1 cup uncooked rice, pulverized in a spice grider
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. cornstarch
Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper, to taste
1 cleaned soft-shell crab
2 cups buttermilk
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 fresh jalapeño, minced
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup canola oil
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tbsp. bacon fat
2 cups shredded white cabbage
1 tbsp. pickled peppers
1 bunch green onions, sliced thick
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
Kosher salt, to taste
For the crabs:
Pour oil an inch deep into a large pot or heavy frying pan and heat to 350 degrees.
Mix all dry ingredients well and add salt and pepper to taste.
Dip crab in buttermilk and then in the breading mixture. Fry the breaded crab for 4-5 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees.
Remove from the oil and dry on a paper towel–lined plate.
For the Lemon Aioli:
Add first 4 ingredients to a food processor. Turn it on and slowly drizzle in the oil. Alternately, vigorously whisk the oil into the other ingredients by hand. Season with salt.
For the Salpicon:
Heat bacon fat until smoking. Then, add cabbage and sauté for 1 minute. Add peppers, green onion, and vinegar, cook for another two minutes, and season with salt.
Brush a 5-inch piece of French bread with olive oil. Toast it.
Place the hot soft-shell on the grilled bread, and top with a spoonful of salpicon. Add a heaping spoonful of aioli to the plate, for dipping.
From chef Isaac Toups of Toups Meatery in New Orleans, Louisiana