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Two expert chefs show us the how-tos of cooking surf and turf

Jul 25, 2016 02:36PM ● By James Houck
By James Houck

If faced with the final choice of the perfect last meal, many a Marylander might declare blue crabs to be top of the list. Others may prefer a USDA Prime-grade steak; filet mignon perhaps. I champion that we can have both; surf and turf, please! And with summer about to transition into fall, this is a fantastic time of the year to grill outdoors (we’re thinking steaks) and acquire the largest sized crabs. Best of both worlds. We turned to two of the best restaurants in the business for preparing each, to learn how to do so properly, along with their recipes for dynamite dishes.

Chef Benjamin Janes, Sr. of Annapolis’ renowned O’Learys Seafood, now owned by Wil Peterson, who has refreshingly re-presented the O’Learys brand—shows us how to expertly clean, prepare, cook, and plate a soft-shell crab. These delicate and sumptuous critters of the Chesapeake Bay are highly prized and, because they are cooked whole, present Maryland’s most famed seafood in true form—what you see is what you get…aesthetic cuisine.

For our “turf,” we made a beeline to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, also located in Eastport (with a second location opening this fall in Odenton), and the famed chain’s Corporate Chef, Edwin Ruiz. He offers step-by-step instruction for how you can experience a Ruth’s Chris steak at home—of course, it all starts with the selection of the beef (cut and grade).

So let’s start cooking the perfect…

Soft-Shell Crabs with Corn Relish & Mustard Lime Sauce


Recipe courtesy O’Leary’s Seafood


  • 4 large soft shell crabs, (size = whales)
  • 1 large green tomato
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 quart vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Corn Relish:

  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 red or green Jalapeño chiles, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Seasoned Flour:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn flour
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl.

Mustard Lime Sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl.

Prepare the roasted corn relish, seasoned flour, and mustard lime sauce.

To clean soft-shell crabs, hold the crab in one hand, and using a pair of kitchen shears, cut off the front of the crab, about 1/2 inch behind the eyes and mouth. Squeeze out the contents of the sack located directly behind the cut you just made.

Lift one pointed end of the crab’s outer shell; remove and discard the gills. Repeat on the other side.

Turn the crab over and snip off the small flap known as the apron. Rinse the entire crab well and pat dry.

Season crabs with salt and pepper and dredge in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add crabs to pan, top sides down; cook 3 minutes. Turn crabs over; cook an additional 2 minutes.

While crabs are cooking, slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick. Discard the ends.

In a large skillet pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and heat over medium heat.

Dredge tomatoes in seasoned flour, shaking of excess.

Dip tomatoes in buttermilk, then dredge again in seasoned flour.

Place tomatoes into the frying pan with the hot oil, do not crowd the tomatoes, they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, approximately 2 minutes, flip and fry them on the other side. Drain them on paper towels.

Heat corn relish in sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of butter on med-high heat. Corn should start to brown when it’s ready.

Place two pieces of fried green tomato on the plate and top each piece with a soft shell crab.

Spoon corn relish on the plate, as well as the mustard lime sauce, and serve.

Ruth's Chris Steak House Filet at Home

"Quality Steaks. At Ruth’s Chris Steak House we use Prime Beef, so check out your local butcher shop or grocery store for the best quality steak of choice, the better grade/cut of meat, the better your end result.” —Chef Ruiz


Instructions courtesy Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Preheat broiler to its highest temperature, 500F preferred, or your grill to its highest temperature. Place your heat-resistant, oven-safe serving plates on bottom rack of oven to get them hot.

Pull steaks from refrigerator, sprinkle both sides with sea salt and finely ground black pepper.

In a pre-heated oven, place steaks in heat-resistant pan or directly onto grill and cook to golden brown one side. When brown, flip the steak, using tongs or spatula and cook other side.

Cook, until desired temperature is achieved, flipping occasionally:
  • 5–7 minutes for rare
  • 6–8 minutes for mid-rare
  • 8–9 minutes for medium
  • 9–10 minutes for mid-well
  • 11–14 minutes for well-done
When steaks are cooked to your desired temperature, remove from oven/grill.

Remove plate from oven, place steak in the center of the plate and drizzle 1 tablespoon of melted, salted butter over the steak.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley
Serve sizzling.