Soft Shell Crabs
These amazing delicacies are only available for a short time in late spring, and people, including myself, wait all year for that first bite. If you love crab, then these are truly the best thing you’ll ever eat. Clean them, fry them up, and eat them shell and all. They’re sweet, and bright and oh so juicy. Let’s learn how to clean one step by step!
Before I show you how to clean these little beauties, let’s look at what they are.
As a hardshell crab grows, it molts its skin. After they molt, they are weak, and the shell is very thin and soft. During this period the crabs are very vulnerable, so they do one of two things. They either hide in the grasses and hope to not be eaten, or, since crabs shed during the mating season, usually they pair up with a hard shell male who protects her during this time. These are called doubled crabs. During this time, the male carries the female under him until she’s hard and she wanders off on her own to grow her sponge of eggs. The male is thought to do this because it helps to protect his investment…if she gets away before she’s hard again, she may mate with another male too.
Now I will say this, if you’re squeamish, most seafood market clerks will clean them for you, but not all of them clean them fully. If you are squeamish, then I apologize and won’t be offended if you decide to wait until next week to read the post.
First thing you’re going to want to do is place your crab in the freezer for about 20 minutes. This will allow it to fall asleep entering it’s hibernation mode. This way when you go to clean it, it won’t feel anything. I’m a firm believer of eating animals, but I’m also a firm believer in every animal being happy until it’s last moments, and ending it’s life as painlessly as possible.
Next, you’re going to take a good sharp pair of kitchen shears, and…well, for lack of better words, cut it’s face off. You’re going to want to make your cut, behind the eyes and under its mandibles (mouth).
Once you’ve removed it’s face, turn it over and remove it’s apron as well.
Now, we pull up the sides of the crab back and pull off the gills. These are the feathery things under the sides.
Now that your beautiful soft shell crab is cleaned, it’s time to saute or fry it. A lot of places deep fry their crabs, but then again most places have frozen and thawed already cleaned crabs that have lost most of their water weight. I feel that sauteing it, allows it to keep all of it’s sweet juicy flavor.
There’s one thing that is synonymous with crabs and that’s spices. Some people prefer J.O. spice, I’m an old fashioned Old Bay guy. Mix about a ¼ cup of old bay with about a cup and a half of flour. Dredge your crab in this mix making sure it’s fully covered. Make sure you shake the excess flour off.
Get your pan hot on about medium heat, and add your butter. Depending on the size of your crab and your pan will determine how much butter. You want just enough to cook the crab without frying it. If you add too much, as the crab is cooking and releasing juices, the butter may pop and splatter…ouch.
Saute your crab for about 3-4 minutes per side, starting back down and belly up.
Flip it over, and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
That’s it! Enjoy these sweet delicacies that only come for a short time. Eat them as is, or put it on some bread with some tomato and lettuce to make the best sandwich of your life!