The hubby and I have been together almost 20 years (I was really, really young when we starting dating. Wink! Wink!). And while we’re not the perfect couple, we do pride ourselves on working hard at keeping our relationship strong. A big part of that is carving out time for each other. We frequently schedule lunch dates and sneak in the occasional night out. But all those outings combined don’t come close to measuring up to the kidless weekends we share each year at the New Orleans Jazz Fest! We’ve been enjoying these date weekends since 1994. Over the years, we’ve gotten up close and personal with many of our favorite local and mainstream musicians, discovered countless new artists, stumbled upon and snagged some really cool and unique arts and crafts and filled our bellies with some of the best fest food in the world.
One of the reasons why Jazz Fest food ranks so high, in our book and in the books of thousand of others who visit each year, is that it’s all local. Unlike the musicians and artisans of Jazz Fest who represent both regional and national talent, the food of Jazz Fest is homegrown. Those coveted spots under the food tents are reserved for fulltime Louisiana residents (with large scale food service experience) whose dishes exemplify, in some way, the culinary culture of our region. And that will never include funnel cakes, deep-fried Twinkies or corn dogs! I know the hubby and I could never waste calories on such trivial items. We have enough trouble making room for tantalizing options like Crawfish Bread, Oyster Patties, Jambalaya, Cochon de Lait and Cajun Duck Poor Boys, Pecan Catfish Meunière, Pheasant, Quail & Andouille Gumbo, Cajun Chicken & Tasso with Creole Rice, freshly fried Cracklins, Pralines and Sweet Potato Pone (to name just a few of our heritage foods)! As for the items we can’t fit in during our two-day soirée, well we turn many of those into dinner projects at home. We do our best to recreate the flavors and fun of the Fair Grounds (where the Fest is held) in our own kitchen. I think we’ve done a pretty good job with the Fest’s famous Crawfish Monica (my Jazzy Crawfish Pasta) and their Spicy Natchitoches Meat Pies (my Mini Cajun Meat Pies). I’d like to think we’ve done the same with these Fried Soft-Shell Crab Poor Boys!
Until next week …
Fried Soft-Shell Crab Poor Boys
6 soft-shell crabs
Salt and pepper to taste
Peanut or canola oil, for frying
1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 8-inch pieces French bread, cut in half lengthwise
Garlic Butter, melted, see recipe
Lemon wedges and hot sauce, for serving (optional)
Clean the crabs by removing the gills (the spongy “dead man’s fingers” located under the tips of either side of the top shell) and cutting off the eyes, mouthparts and belly apron with scissors. Squeeze out the small sac located directly behind the mouth. Rinse and pat dry. Season the crabs inside and out with salt and pepper; set aside. Place oil in a large skillet or electric fryer and heat to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, in a shallow dish, combine the milk and eggs. In a separate shallow dish, mix together the flour, salt, granulated garlic, onion powder, black pepper, thyme and cayenne pepper. Working with one crab at a time, dredge in the seasoned flour, dip in egg wash then dredge again in seasoned flour. Shake off excess flour and gently lower crab into hot oil. Fry, flipping as necessary, until deep golden brown and crispy, 4-10 minutes per crab depending on the size. Drain on a wire rack or stack of paper towels. To make the poor boys, lightly coat both sides of the French bread with melted garlic butter. Place one fried soft-shell crab onto one side of the bread, drizzle with more garlic butter and garnish with lemon juice and hot sauce. Top with the other half of the bread and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.