soft shell crab eggs benedict with cajun hollandaise

Soft-Shell Crab Eggs Benedict with Cajun Hollandaise

Soft-shell crab season is upon us! The season lasts from May through September and it’s when the crabs shed their hard exterior and are harvested to take advantage of their softer shell. Contrary to what one might think, they are not a different species of crab, it is just when crabs -- typically blue crabs -- get too big for their shell. The shells of soft-shell crabs are exactly that, they are so soft that the whole crab can be eaten, no picking the meat out required. You get all the flavor without the work.

With this recipe, the soft-shell crabs are lightly battered and pan-fried and served on top of toasted English muffins with fresh tomato and avocado with Cajun hollandaise sauce for a decadent and different spin on classic eggs Benedict. Making the hollandaise in a food processor speeds up the arduous task of whisking the egg yolks and butter to form an emulsion.

You can usually ask to get the soft shell crabs cleaned when ordering them at the seafood counter but if you want to do the task yourself it isn’t very difficult. To clean the crabs, working one at a time, hold the crab in one hand and using a pair of kitchen shears, cut the off the front of the crab, about ¼” behind the eyes. Lift up the tapered points on each side of the top shell to show the gills. Pull them out and then discard them. Turn the crab over and pull off the bottom shell and discard it.  

I get my seafood from a local store, Santa Monica Seafood, as it has a great selection of fish with plenty of sustainable options. During soft-shell crab season they get shipments in on Wednesday & Fridays. Click the link here for an exclusive coupon for your next order from Santa Monica Seafood!



For the soft shell crabs:

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 soft shell crabs, cleaned

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided


For the Cajun hollandaise:

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon diced shallots

5 whole black peppercorns

3 large egg yolks

1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


For serving:

4 English muffins, halved and toasted

2 medium avocados, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced

1 medium heirloom tomato, thinly sliced

4 poached eggs

1 tablespoon chopped chives

Lemon wedges



For the soft shell crabs:

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge two of the crabs in the flour, making sure they are coated on both sides. Shake off the excess flour.

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the oil and heat through. Once the oil is hot but not smoking, add the two crabs to the pan, back-side-down and sauté until the crabs start to crisp, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat if the pan starts to smoke. Flip the crabs over and continue to cook until golden brown and crispy on the underside, about an additional 2 minutes.

Remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool. Add the remaining oil to the pan and repeat the process with the remaining crabs.


For the Cajun hollandaise:

In a small saucepan over medium heat add the vinegar, shallots and peppercorns and bring to a simmer. Reduce to about 1 teaspoon then strain the shallots and peppercorns and discard.

Add the egg yolks and reduced vinegar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. With the food processor running, slowly add the butter from the top through the hole. Continue adding in a slow stream until an emulsion forms and the sauce is thick. Season with salt, paprika, chili powder and cayenne and pulse until combined.

Set sauce aside in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water to keep warm until ready to use.


For serving:

To assemble the eggs Benedict, divide the English muffins among 4 plates, placing both cut side up. Top each with avocado and tomato then place one pan-fried soft shell crab on top of each set of English muffins. Top with an egg and a generous spoonful of hollandaise. Garnish with chopped chives and serve with a side of lemon wedges.


Serves 4.





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