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Grilled Soft-Shell Crabs with Tartar Sauce

When you grow up in Baltimore, as Steven Raichlen did, soft-shell crabs in June are part of your culinary calendar. They're usually pan-fried or deep-fried, but grilling brings out their sweetness. The accompanying tartar sauce is flavored with Old Bay Seasoning, invented by a German-Jewish spice merchant in Baltimore.

slideshow Amazing Seafood Recipes

  • Servings: 4

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tartar sauce
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cornichons
  • 1 tablespoon minced pickled jalapeños
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
crab sandwiches
  • Vegetable oil, for the grill
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 small shallots, minced
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
  • 4 rolls, split
  • 12 cleaned soft-shell crabs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Light a grill. Brush the grate with oil. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the garlic, shallots and seafood seasoning and cook over high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes; don't let the garlic brown.
  3. Grill the rolls until golden; move the rolls to a cooler part of the grill. Brush the crabs generously with the aromatic butter and season with salt and pepper. Grill the crabs over high heat, turning occasionally, until bright red, crisp and charred in spots, about 4 minutes. Spread the tartar sauce on the rolls, top with the crabs and serve.

Suggested Pairing

Viognier would complement the sweetness of the crab and the creaminess of the tartar sauce. Try one from Washington State or California.

Contributed By Photo © Amy Neunsinger Published June 2000

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