The first softies of the season are smaller than the behemoths that show up later in the season. These babies in the East Hampton fish market were so fresh they practically winked at me before their little faces were snipped off in the getting them ready to cook phase.
This sandwich demands white bread. Pepperidge Farm Sandwich White, my former gold standard, has been usurped by freshly baked Pullman loaves sliced to order at the baker. Get them if you can.
(That bread slicer gives me the shivers as it does anyone who remembers Nicholas Cage’s unfortunate encounter with this menacing machine in “Moonstruck.” On the bright side he still won the heart of Cher, wooden hand and all.)
A pert, creamy sauce is required to dress the sandwich. I put together this zippy pink tartar sauce with 3 T. Hellman’s, 1/2 t. mustard (my own Cranberry/Rosemary but you can use Dijon or whatever else you have on hand), 1 T. Heinz chili sauce (the stuff that’s like ketchup only not as sweet), a jiggle of Tabasco and 1 T. relish (I used my homemade corn relish but use what you have, even chopped pickles will do). The sauce is not an exact science. Let your imagination and conscience guide you.
One last trick — use finely shredded raw cabbage instead of iceberg lettuce. It’s better that way.
Dip the cleaned crabs in a bowl of milk, dredge in flour generously seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika. Shake off excess. Heat 1/4″ cooking oil in a pan. When good and hot put the crabs top-side down in the pan. Tuck the front claws into place, you don’t want them splayed out. Cook 3 minutes on the top side, use tongs to turn over, and cook 2 more minutes on the bottom side. (If you do use late-season monsters, increase the cooking time 1-2 minutes). Don’t burn them. Duh.
If you have a OXO Good Grips Splatter Screen, now’s the time to use it. The crabs can pop and spray out oil droplets.
Remove crabs from pan, place on paper towels to drain a bit. Slather good white bread with your home made pink tartar sauce. Lay on a thin layer of shredded cabbage and top with a hot crunchy crab.
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