Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Corn & Salsa Verde - By Montana's Trail House
NATE COURTLAND IS THE HEAD CHEF AT MONTANA'S TRAIL HOUSE - A DELICIOUS APPALACHIAN EATERY - IN BUSHWICK. ASIDE FROM HELPING FARMER'S WHOSE BARNS HAVE BURNED DOWN, NATE THINKS FRESH PRODUCE IS VITAL TO A GOOD DISH. NATE IS A BIG FAN OF TOMATOES AND OBSCURE PEPPERS, AND KIND OF COOKS A BIT LIKE YOUR GRANDMA.
A montage of Appalachian wilderness and East Coast country blues sing-a-longs immediately come to mind when walking into Montana’s Trail House. The once auto-repair shop—complete with splintery wood walls, bookcases and Americana memorabilia—now embodies more of a Kentucky barn vibe.
And head chef Nate Courtland says the food – most of which is sourced from local farms – is designed to follow suit. “The thing with pretty much all of the food that we’re doing here, is it’s rooted from home cooking,” he says. “I mean you can’t always smoke a whole belly of bacon for yourself, but a lot of it is approachable.”
Nate says the idea is that simple cooking techniques are designed to position the produce as the real hero. “For me, it’s actually taken a long time to kind of hold back and be like, no that’s actually all this needs. It’s about resisting that extra ingredient, or that extra sauce,” Nate says. “People can appreciate it I think, and realize that their food hasn’t been over handled.”
CRAB & BREADING
- Soft shell crabs (alive and kicking)
- Frying pan
- 2 or 3 cups oil for frying
- 3 cups seltzer water
- Seasoned flour (2 cups all purpose flour, ¼ cup cornstarch, 2 tablespoons smoked paprika pinch of salt and cayenne)
- 2 ears fresh sweet corn (shuck and cut corn off cob)
- ½ pint ripe cherry tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic (smashed)
- Pinch of chili flakes (to taste)
- Olive oil for sautéing
- ½ cup picked basil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ red onion (sliced thin)
- 1 bunch Italian parsley
- ½ cup picked mint
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 or 2 lemons (juiced)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Small pinch chili flakes
- For salsa verde - place everything but olive oil in blender and blend quickly on medium to high. Turn blender to low and drizzle in olive oil slowly. Add pinch of salt and adjust acidity levels according to taste. Set aside.
- For blistered cherry tomatoes & corn, in a medium sized sauté pan, heat up about ¼ cup olive oil until just starting to slightly smoke. Turn flame off and carefully add cherry tomatoes.
- This will pop oil so be careful and slowly turn flame back on. Blister skin of tomatoes until the skin starts to peel away from flesh. Turn pan down then carefully add garlic, onion, corn, and chili flakes.
- Season with salt and sauté for just about a minute or so until sauce begins to develop. At this point add butter and basil, then turn pan off and taste to make sure seasoning is to your liking.
- For crab, heat up oil to 350 degrees for frying, and in meantime clean crabs. With kitchen scissors snip eyes off and gills out. Then flip over and snip off reproductive system, this is a flap on the bottom of the crab. This may seem very brutal but it's just how it's done.
- Next place the crabs into the seltzer water then into the seasoned flour. Do this one by one and make sure to get flour under the top shell and carefully shake off excess. The seltzer helps the flour stick and keeps the breading light and extra crispy.
- Fry crabs one by one and make sure to use sifter or some sort of lid to protect from popping oil. Do not completely cover oil because this creates steam, but protect your eyes and face from oil. Fry for about 3 minutes flipping once and remove onto paper towel.
- Season lightly with salt or Old Bay and serve immediately. You can cut them in half or leave whole. The tomatoes with corn can be served on the side or underneath as well as the salsa verde. Enjoy!