Dining outdoors in the summer is one of the joys of living in the Deep South, and I take advantage of most any restaurant that offers al fresco dining. But, it was more than the outdoor view that caught my rapt attention recently when I dove into a dinner of Fried Softshell Crabs that piled on the Cajun flavor. I’m still thinking about it: two jumbo Gulf softshells fried golden brown stacked high on a bed of steamed asparagus swimming in a pool of rich hollandaise. And if that weren’t enough, top it all off with a crabmeat cream reduction that sauced this tower to perfection. Oh yeah, dinner is served!
The restaurant inside City Club located in River Ranch, the lifestyle residential development in the heart of Lafayette, Louisiana is hitting its stride with dishes that are not only tasty but picture perfect. I’ve been dining at this neighborhood grill for years and have seen the changes it’s gone through, but now, in the hands of rock solid chef Donovan Broussard, I am duly impressed. Once a sandwich grill, then a full-fledged Italian white-tablecloth venue, then back to basics, this spot has been evolving with its membership following for many years. But lately—in the past 18 months—the reviews from diners have been stellar and steady with accolades for both creativity as well as taste.
It’s hard to run a kitchen in a big-time catering facility. With its massive ballroom being a go-to venue for weddings and banquets, the food service focus is clearly on delivering to a mass audience for which they execute expertly. But nestled in this beehive of daily and nightly activity is a restaurant kitchen focused on the center of the plate. High praise goes not only to Chef Donovan but also to sous chef Hannah Hudson, a Delgado graduate that cooked at acclaimed Jolie Bistro before joining the team.
With daily lunch specials and nightly showstoppers like my softshell special shining a creative light on the stellar menu of favorites, the City Club is reigniting a loyal local following. And if you can’t catch the Fried Softshell Crabs dinner being offered, then follow my recipe to arrive at the same delicious destination. The al fresco view may not be the same, but it will be just as tasty.
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup finely diced shallots
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces white lump crabmeat
- 1 gallon peanut oil
- 8 (medium or large) softshell crabs, cleaned
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 cups yellow cornmeal
- Kosher salt
- 24 spears of asparagus, steamed
- 4 tablespoons diced green onion
- In a blender container, add the egg yolks and lemon juice and pulse until the mixture quickly lightens in color and is combined.
- Turn the blender to low, remove the cover, and slowly drizzle in the melted butter. Once the butter is combined, and the sauce thickened, add a pinch of salt and cayenne to taste. Pour the sauce into a bowl and keep warm for serving.
- In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, add the oil along with the shallots. Sauté just until the shallots turn translucent and then add the garlic and parsley. Stir while adding the wine to deglaze the pan and continue cooking until most of the alcohol burns off. Add the cream and let the mixture come to a slow boil. Watch as the water bubbles appear and the cream begins to thicken. Once thickened to coat the back of a spoon, gently add the crabmeat being careful not to break the lumps. Keep warm for serving.
- In a large cast-iron pot over medium-high heat, add the peanut oil halfway up the side of the pot and bring to 375ºF.
- Inspect the crabs to make sure the gills have been removed and are cleaned. Sprinkle the crabs lightly with Cajun seasoning. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and cornmeal and dredge the crabs until thickly coated. Add the crabs to the hot oil and fry until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Move to a wire rack and sprinkle with salt.
- For serving, add several tablespoons of hollandaise sauce to the plate and arrange a portion of asparagus spears on top. Pile two fried softshell crabs on top and spoon over the lump crabmeat cream. Sprinkle with diced green onions and serve immediately.
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