It's Soft Shell Crab week here in Maryland! Just one of the many annual delicacies looked forward to by many folks here in the Chesapeake Bay region, even more than strawberries or tomato season. Soft Shell Crabs are crabs that are in the active process of molting. During this time, (only about 48 hours) their shells are soft and the crab can be eaten whole without peeling. The season usually runs from Mother's Day to about the Fourth of July, but Memorial Day is peak season. Whether they are served tempura style, pan fried with plenty of brown butter (my favorite), or simply grilled—they are my favorite seafood.
This sauce is the perfect accompaniment for their sweetness without hiding it, and it's such a nice change from traditional tartar sauce. In this dish, you get the garlicky, tangy, bright flavors of the herbs and capers in traditional chimichurri with a little heat from the chile powder, and the mellow creaminess of aioli. Normally, I would make the aioli with 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 neutral oil, but I like the olivey taste with this version. Feel free to change it if you like a less olive note. If you don't have soft shell crabs - no worries! Serve this with any firm, white fish steaks that have been simply grilled with lemon juice, oil and herbs to brighten the flavors. - Burnt Offerings
Photos: Finished dish - my photo; Crabs - courtesy of finecooking.com, Grilled fish - courtesy of woodfiredkitchen.com
Test Kitchen Notes
Burnt Offering's Chimichurri Aioli was a wonderful marriage between traditional aioli and classic chimichurri sauce. The parsley and cilantro added a freshness and the capers brought a nice briny bite. This "Argentine Tartar Sauce" is perfect for the suggested soft shell crabs and would also be great on grilled meats and seafood. A squeeze of lemon mixed in right before serving brightened all the flavors. - jvcooks —jvcooks
Make the Chimichurri by combining the parsley, cilantro, capers, vinegar, lemon rind, oregano and chile powder in a small bowl and set aside. (I make this in a small food processor and just give a good whirl to a pesto consistency)
In a mortar & pestle grind up garlic and salt until a smooth paste is formed.
Beat egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale yellow and thick.
Add olive oil, drizzled drop by drop into the egg yolk mixture as you continue to beat. As the mixture thickens, you can then add the oil in a thin stream as you beat. Half way through, add in the garlic paste.
When the oil is used up, and the mixture is a thick mayonnaise consistency, fold in the chimichurri mixture.
Correct for seasoning (you may want more salt, depending on your vinegar and capers) and refrigerate.