For the fried crab: (adapted from Gourmet, April 2001)
4 soft shell crabs
2 large eggs, whisked
2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbl kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
about 1 1/2 quart vegetable oil (1 bottle)
Prep the crab: Using kitchen shears, cut off the crab’s face (sorry, there’s no nice way to say that), cutting about 1/4-inch behind the eyes. Gently pull up one side of the soft upper shell, leaving it intact, and pull out the spongy gills lying underneath. Repeat on the other side. Turn the crab over, and cut off the triangle shaped belly flap. Rinse the crab with cool water and pat dry.
Combine the eggs, buttermilk, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tsp pepper in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the crabs, and submerge beneath the buttermilk mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Pour the oil into a four-quart pot. The oil should be about two inches deep, and there should be at least four inches space between the top of the oil and the top of the pot. Over medium-high heat, heat the oil to 350ᵒF.
Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Transfer to a large zip-lock plastic bag. Lift a single crab out of the buttermilk mixture, and allow the excess liquid to drip off. Add the crab to the bag and shake to coat it with flour. Knock off excess flour and transfer the crab to a wire rack placed over a sheet tray. Repeat with the rest of the crabs.
Deep-fry the crabs, two at a time, turning over halfway through frying, until cooked through and golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Then lift the crabs out of the oil with a slotted spoon, and drain them on paper towels. Continue to check the temperature of the oil throughout the cooking process, and adjust the heat to raise or lower the temperature to around 35oᵒF. Return the oil to 35oᵒF before deep-frying the second batch of crab.
For the sandwiches:
4 great-quality hamburger buns
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 head butter lettuce (i.e. Boston Bibb lettuce)
8 slices bacon, cooked
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven broiler and arrange a rack in the top half of the oven. Slice the buns in half cross-wise. Arrange the buns, cut side-up on a baking sheet, and brush them with the melted butter. Broil until crisp and golden brown.
Spread about 1 tablespoon mayonnaise on each top bun. Arrange 1 to 2 medium-sized lettuce leaves over each bottom bun. Then arrange 2 slices of bacon on top of the lettuce. Place a fried crab on top of the bacon, and then 1 to 2 tomato slices on top of the crab. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper, and top with the mayonnaise-slathered top bun. Serve immediately.