While my favorite crabs are definitely Dungeness, soft-shell crabs come in a close second. In fact, I believe I had a small addiction when living in Boston. Unfortunately, they are more of an East Coast delicacy and I didn't expect to see them much here. But as luck would have it, the Berkeley Bowl had them a few weeks ago, and live!
They were on the smallish side, so we bought 4, two for the each of us. Here they are all lined up to be cleaned. It's always best to get them live and to clean them yourself for freshness, but if you are using them immediately, sometimes your fishmonger will do it for you.
To clean them, first you flip them over and pull the tab at the bottom (called the apron) out. Cut off with a pair of scissors.
Then you flip them back over and cut off the face. While it sounds gruesome, it needs to be done. Then gently lift up one side of the shell and you'll see the lungs, which are long and stringy. Cut off and repeat on the other side of the shell.
Rinse and dry thoroughly with paper towels, and your crabs are ready to be cooked!
My favorite cooking method is to fry them until crispy, served on a soft bun with tartar sauce and juicy ripe summer tomato slices. However, a salad is also a great accompaniment, as the crab is rich and juicy but begging for some acidity.
Soak in milk, then dredge them in a mixture of flour and cornmeal (for crunch). Fry in a nonstick pan - easy cleanup and less likelihood of the flour coming off and burning on the bottom of the pan. You can't be stingy with the oil here or your crab won't be crisp!
That night, we served our crabs with a green salad and fresh corn pancakes. Summer on a plate!
Crispy Soft-Shell Crabs
2 - 4 soft-shell crabs (depending on size), cleaned
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- Place milk in a shallow bowl and place crabs in the milk while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Combine flour and cornmeal in another shallow bowl. Season heavily with salt and pepper.
- Heat vegetable oil and butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Dip one crab in flour mixture and coat on both sides, pressing to make a thick crust. Immediately place in hot oil and repeat with other crabs.
- Cook 2 - 3 minutes on each side until crispy and golden brown. Place crabs on paper-towel lined dish to drain. Serve immediately