The City Magazine Since 1975

Crispy Buttermilk Soft-Shell Crab with Asparagus, Pickled Red Onion, Pimiento-Cheese Grits, & Roasted Tomato Butter

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For the tempura batter:

(Yields 4 cups)

1 cup buttermilk

1 (12-oz.) can of beer, preferably Budweiser

1½ cups self-rising flour

1 cup cornstarch

Kosher salt and pepper


Combine the buttermilk and beer in a large bowl. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch, making sure there are no lumps. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.


For the crabs:

4 cleaned soft-shell crabs

4 cups tempura batter (recipe above)

5 cups canola oil


Preheat the oven to 200°F. Soak the crabs in the tempura batter for 10 minutes.

Heat the canola oil in a medium deep pot over high heat to 375°F. Remove the crabs from the tempura batter, holding them above the batter to allow excess to run off. Slowly and carefully place one crab at a time into the hot oil.

Cook for four minutes, turn the crab over, and cook for four minutes more. Remove the crab from oil, place it on perforated rack, and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with one crab at a time. Plate immediately or keep warm in the oven for up to 10 minutes.


For the champagne vinaigrette:

(Yields 1 cup)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1 Tbs. minced shallot

1 Tbs. minced garlic

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and white pepper to taste


Combine the lemon juice, champagne vinegar, shallot, and garlic in a bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes to mellow the flavors of the shallot and garlic. Whisk in olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly, until the vinaigrette emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


For the pickled red onion:

(Yields 2 cups)

1 cup dry red wine, preferably pinot noir

1 cup grenadine

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

2 cups thinly sliced red onion

Kosher salt and white pepper


Put the wine, grenadine, and vinegar in a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and simmer for four to five minutes. Add the onions and bring the liquid back to a simmer. Remove the saucepan from the heat, leaving the onions in the liquid for 10 more minutes.


Drain the onions and let cool to room temperature. Use immediately or refrigerate in a tightly covered container for up to two weeks.


For the pimiento-cheese grits:

(Yields 4 cups)

3 cups cooked yellow stone-ground grits

1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup diced pimientos

Kosher salt and white pepper to taste


Heat the grits in a saucepan on medium heat for three to four minutes, or until hot through. Add the cheese and pimientos and stir with a spatula until the cheese has melted into the grits. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately or cover lightly and hold on the lowest heat for up to 10 minutes.


For the roasted tomato butter:

2 large tomatoes, quartered

1 Tbs. canola oil

1 clove garlic

1 shallot, chopped

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 cup heavy cream

3 Tbs. unsalted butter, diced and kept cold

Kosher salt and white pepper


Preheat the oven on broil.

Put the tomatoes, canola oil, garlic, and shallot in a medium oven-proof dish. Broil, stirring occasionally, until charred, eight to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a medium saucepan. Add the thyme and cream and cook over medium heat until reduced by half, 10 to 12 minutes.

Carefully transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Return to the saucepan and place on low heat. Slowly whisk in the butter until completely combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set in a warm place, uncovered, such as on the back of the stove.


To assemble:

1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and lightly steamed

1 cup champagne vinaigrette (recipe above)

Kosher salt and white pepper to taste

4 cups warm pimiento-cheese grits (recipe above)

4 tempura-battered soft-shell crabs

8 Tbs. roasted tomato butter (recipe above)

1 cup pickled red onions (recipe above)


Combine the asparagus and champagne vinaigrette in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and toss lightly.


Divide the asparagus amongst four plates. Top with a cup of grits, then a crab. Add two tablespoons of roasted tomato butter to each plate and garnish with pickled onions.