Soft shell blue crabs appeared at my local fish market about two weeks ago. Blue crabs shed their shells seasonally as part of the their normal growth process. These crabs are harvested just after molting when the new shell is still soft. At this stage most of the crab is edible.
Cleaning a soft shell crab in preparation for cooking is quick and simple. First, 1/4” of the “face” of the crab is cut off using kitchen shears. Then, the top shell is raised from the outside edge to the center on each side so the inedible gills of the crab can be removed. Last, the crab is turned over to remove the breastplate. Serious Eats has a great tutorial on cleaning soft shell crabs.
Soft shell crabs are often deep-fried or sautéed. Here the crabs are prepared A la Meuniere – in the style of the Miller’s wife. The crabs are lightly dredged in flour before being quickly sautéed in clarified butter for no more than 2 minutes per side.
Soft shell crabs are a bit rich so I prefer a single crab served to start a meal. It can be accompanied with dressed cabbage or, as shown here with fresh, ripe sliced tomatoes. The recipe is for two appetizer sized portions.
- 2 soft shell blue crabs, cleaned
- 6 tablespoons of butter, clarified
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
- Chopped flat leaf parsley
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Prepare clarified butter by melting it in a small saucepan over low heat until no more foam rises to the surface. Skim off the foam with a spoon. Once the foam has been skimmed it can be used, but if the remaining butter is to be refrigerated and saved, it should be filtered through cheesecloth. Clarified butter can withstand higher and extended cooking times better than normal butter or oil.
- While the butter is being prepared, trim, rinse and pat dry the soft shell crabs. Set aside until ready to use.
- In a shallow bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper
- Bring 3 to 4 tablespoons of clarified butter to high heat in a shallow sauté pan.
- Lightly flour the crabs and place topside down in the sauté pan without crowding. Cook for 2 minutes then turn and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer. Place the crabs on a paper towel lined plate.
- While the butter is still hot in the sauté pan (add additional butter if needed), add about 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and the juice on 1/2 lemon. Cook over high heat for about 1 minute
- To serve, plate the crabs and drizzle with the parsley, lemon butter from the sauté pan