These are by far one of my favorite springtime indulgences. Softshell crabs are blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland that have molted and formed a new shell which has not hardened fully. This shell is completely edible, and when pan fried, it has a very satisfying crunch. The crabmeat is sweet and tender and there really are few things that are more delicious than a softshell crab sandwich on a sunny spring day with a bottle of beer.
After the jump (so as not to offend the squeamish) I will show you how to clean, bread, and fry these little gems in the comfort of your own home. Let's go!
1 My delicious little softshell crab
2 Use kitchen shears to cut the eyes off of the crab. Start about 1/2 inch behind the eyes
3 VERY IMPORTANT! Use your kitchen shears or the tip of a sharp paring knife to puncture the small sacs of fluid behind where the eyes are located. Be sure to let as much liquid drain as possible.If these are not punctured and drained they will pop when frying and you may get burned with hot oil
4 Lift each point of the crabs soft shell and cut away the feathery looking lungs from underneath
5 Cutting away the lungs from underneath the shell
6 Flip the crab onto it's back, pull the apron away from it's body and remove it with kitchen shears. This piece will look different depending upon whether the crab is male or female. This crab is a male, his apron looks similar to the Washington Monument. The apron on a female crab will look similar to the dome on the Capitol Building.
7 I dredged the crabs in buttermilk seasoned with salt and pepper and then coated them in a mix of equal parts of flour and cornstarch with a good dose of Old Bay seasoning tossed in.
8 Fry them, starting on their backs in a cast iron pan with enough hot oil to come halfway up the sides of the crabs. Be advised that they may sputter or pop if there is any trapped liquid.
9 Once they are golden brown and crunchy on one side, flip them and fry until golden and crunchy on the second side. The whole frying time will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain them briefly on a paper towel.
10 Crunchy softshell sandwich on brioche bun with Old Bay tartar sauce
The crabs are easy to clean and well worth the effort but if you feel that you can't bring yourself to do the deed, just ask for them to be cleaned when you purchase them.
What is your favorite way to enjoy crab?