Pastrami-Stuffed Softshell Crab with Cauliflower–Broccoli Risotto and Mustard Emulsion

Matthew Hughes

Blue Water Grill - New York, NY

Chefs across the country look forward to the short period of summer when crabs molt their hard shells and become completely edible. Matthew Hughes is no exception, and his stuffed version is complimented by white, purple, and yellow cauliflower florets folded into a creamy oat creation that mimics risotto. Paired with a light-bodied Rosé, this is a perfect summer dinner.


Softshell Crabs:
  • 4 jumbo soft shell crabs, cleaned
  • 4 thin slices (about 2 ounces) of pastrami, thinly shredded
  • 1/4 cup sauerkraut, drained
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup flour for dredging
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted (sweet) butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florettes
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florettes
  • 4 tablespoons ground old-fashioned oats (finely ground in a blender)
  • 1 lemon
Mustard Emulsion:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard


To prepare the crabs, use a sharp knife and slice the crab from where the eyes were to form a pocket underneath the top shell. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the pastrami, sauerkraut, mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Carefully and evenly fill the pockets with the sauerkraut mixture. Set aside under refrigeration.

To make the risotto, heat the oil a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, cream, cauliflower, and broccoli and bring to a simmer. Using a whisk, mix the oats into the simmering mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and the mixture is the creamy consistency of risotto, about 6 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and the juice from half of a lemon.

To make the mustard emulsion, place the egg yolks, mustard, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and blend until slightly frothy, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the emulsion is thick and the consistency of mayonnaise. Transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl and fold in the ground mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To cook the crabs, put the flour into a shallow dish. Heat oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Dredge the crabs in the flour, shaking to release any excess flour, and set them in the hot pan, top side down, until crisp and brown, about 6 minutes. Flip the crabs over and finish cooking for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter, the juice from other half of the lemon, and the chopped parsley.

Evenly distribute the risotto onto each serving plate. Transfer a crab on top of each risotto mound and spoon any remaining cooking liquid over the crabs. Drizzle the mustard emulsion around the plate.


4 servings