The classic Maryland-style soft-shell crab sandwich usually comes on white sandwich bread with mayo, sliced tomato, and lettuce. In this variation inspired by the original, we add a delicious tomato salsa made from oven-dried tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and red wine vinegar.
Why this recipe works:
- Using a boule in place of regular white sandwich bread makes the sandwiches more substantial, and also helps them stand up to all the juices from both the crabs and the tomato salsa.
- Oven-drying the tomatoes concentrates their flavor and reduces their wateriness.
- Dredging the crabs in flour that's been seasoned with Old Bay and sautéeing them in butter adds a classic Maryland flavor, and creates a crunchy, golden crust.
- 1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, tomatoes halved and seeds discarded
- 1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves, very thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Generous pinch sugar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 8 large soft-shell crabs, preferably jumbo or “whale” size, cleaned
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices boule or rustic bread
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- Sliced tomato, sliced white onion, and Bibb lettuce leaves, for serving
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Arrange tomato halves on rimmed baking sheet and bake until excess moisture has evaporated and tomatoes are a deeper red color, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Finely chop tomatoes and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Stir in basil, olive oil, vinegar, and sugar. Season tomato salsa with salt and pepper.
In a shallow bowl, stir together flour and Old Bay; season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge crabs in the seasoned flour.
In a large, wide skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until foamy. Add crabs, shell-side down, and cook until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes; be careful, as soft-shell crabs sometimes pop in the pan. Flip crabs and cook until crisp and golden on bottom side, about 3 minutes. Transfer crabs to paper-towel-lined plates.
Spread 4 bread slices with mayonnaise, then top with lettuce leaves, crabs, tomato salsa, sliced tomatoes, and onion. Close sandwiches and serve immediately.