Soft-Shell Crabs with Tomato and Basil


Soft-shell crabs can be sautéed or grilled, but deep frying, for me, gives the most even cooking and the crispest results. Crabs placed on top of a sauce, as they are in this recipe, do not become soggy, as they might if the sauce were poured over them.


  • 8 small soft-shell crabs, cleaned
  • 1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 cup aioli
  • ½ gallon peanut oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup fish stock
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 cup tomato concasse
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons sweet butter


Clean the crabs by lifting up the side flaps and pulling off the feathery gills. Remove the flap underneath. Rinse in cold water.

Puree the parsley in a mortar and pestle or in a food processor with the aioli. If using the mortar, mix the parsley puree into the aioli. Thin with a little water to a pouring consistency.

Heat the oil to 375°F. Very lightly dust the crabs with flour and immediately but carefully put in the hot oil. Fry the crabs for 3 minutes, then turn and cook 3 minutes more. Remove from the oil and drain on toweling or a rack.

While the crabs are frying, cook the fish stock and garlic over high heat for 1 minute. Add the tomato and the basil leaves, making sure all the basil is immediately submerged in the liquid so it doesn’t turn black. Season the sauce and stir in the butter to make a liaison.

Pour the sauce on 4 warm plates and put the crabs on top. Drizzle the parsley sauce over the crabs.