Many consider soft shell crabs to be a delicacy, and a way to enjoy crabs without the arduous task of picking them. Soft shells are any crab that has molted within the last 12 hours. During that time the shells are soft and papery, so they can be eaten whole, claw to claw. Chef Spike Gjerde is the first Baltimore chef to win the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, and was raised in Baltimore. He knows his crabs: "Blue crab is really unlike any other crab in the world, thanks to the growing conditions, and the type of estuary we have here," he says. "They are superior to any other crab in my opinion."
Before finding their way to a plate, soft shells are typically fried with a seasoned batter or sautéed. It’s hard not to love something deep fried, but many natives consider sautéing the better option to not overwhelm the sweetness of the meat. Both methods preserve the fatty mustard inside and typically lead to a crab gushing with juice.
Because they are so flavorful, a crispy shell bitten into for an explosion of rich juice crab taste, I like a very simple sauteed crab best. But the number of ways and various international treatments of the crab makes it a very versatile delicacy used globally. A video on cleaning the crab, which is very simple, follows the recipe ideas.
Sauteed Soft-shell Crabs with Garlic and Butter
Season crabs with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil and saute the crabs until soft, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the crabs and set aside. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Then add the capers and white wine. Cook until wine has reduced to about 1/2. Swirl in the butter and the chopped chives. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer crabs to a plate, spoon sauce over the crabs
Fried Corn Meal Crusted Soft Shell Crabs
- 8 fresh soft shell crabs cleaned
- 1 cup butter milk
- 1 egg
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup corn meal
- 4 tsp old bay seasoning
- 3 cups canola oil
- 1/2 cup flour
- In a shallow dish add the buttermilk mixed with a beaten egg.
- Add the crabs and soak for 5 minutes.
- Combine the corn meal with the flour and season with salt, pepper and old bay seasoning.
- Dip crabs in buttermilk and egg mixture then into the corn meal/ flour mixture.
- Remove excess.
- Add oil to a large sauce pan or a deep fryer and heat oil to 360 degrees.
- Fry the crabs a few at a time for about 3 minutes or until crispy.
- Drain on paper towels and serve.
- 2 cups milk
- 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce or 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
- 2 cups flour
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 8 soft-shell crabs, cleaned
- 1tablespoon sesame oil
- 1⁄2 cup white wine
- 2 limes, juiced
- 2 Thai chiles, seeded and minced
- 4 scallions, minced
- 1⁄4 cup mint leaf, minced
- 1⁄4 cup basil leaves, minced
- 1⁄2 cup coriander leaves, minced
- Combine the milk and Tabasco in a bowl. Set aside. Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow pan. Dip the crabs in the milk and dredge in flour mixture. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom skillet over medium-high heat. Place the crabs in pan and cook for 3 minutes. Turn and cook until tender, about 2 more minutes. Drain on paper towels.
- Drain the fat from the pan. Return the skillet to the stove. Add the wine, lime juice, chilies and scallions. Turn the heat up to medium-high and simmer until sauce reduces to 1/3 cup, about 3 to 5 minutes. Place two crabs on each of four plates. Drizzle with sauce and garnish with minced mint, basil and coriander leaves.