• Tommy Centola

Serving up Soft Shell Crab

Summer brings a prized delicacy from the waters around New Orleans, the Soft Shell Crab. For a crab to grow, they shed their shell and regrow a new one to accommodate their new body. Before their new shell hardens, fisherman harvest the crabs for this summertime treat.

More often than not, soft shell crabs are breaded and fried. I remember the first time I saw a Soft Shell Crab PoBoy. It was strange seeing the legs and claws hanging over the sides of the French bread. My favorite way to eat one of these delicacies is to top the fried crab with crabmeat that was cooked in meuniére sauce. This dish was a mainstay on the menu at LeRuth’s.

Since frying a Soft Shell Crab does not require a different recipe from other fried seafoods, today I am sharing two different ways to cook these crabs, Broiled Soft Shell Crabs and Stuffed Soft Shell Crab Bake. These recipes allow the delicate flavor of the crabs to shine. You also don’t have the mess of deep frying.

Most soft shell crabs you will find will already be cleaned. However, if you are come across some that are not cleaned, here are the instructions to get you crabs ready to eat.

1. To clean soft-shell crabs, hold the crab in one hand, and using a pair of kitchen shears, cut off the front of the crab, about 1/2 inch behind the eyes and mouth. Squeeze out the contents of the sack located directly behind the cut you just made.

2. Lift one pointed end of the crab’s outer shell; remove and discard the gills. Repeat on the other side.

3. Turn the crab over and snip off the small flap known as the apron. Rinse the entire crab well and pat dry. Once cleaned, crabs should be cooked or stored immediately.

This is a simple and tasty way to prepare the crabs. This basic recipe allows for you to add your own twist. Use your favorite herbs and seasonings to make it your own.

Broiled Soft Shell Crabs

8 soft shell crabs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 cup flour

Preheat broiler.

Combine melted butter, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and granulated garlic together, and dip each crab into this seasoned mixture. Allow excess liquid to drip away. Lightly press crabs into flour. Broil under medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, turning each crab once and basting with the remaining butter mixture, until crabs are golden brown. Serve with your favorite accompaniments.

I had often heard that seafood and cheese do not make a great combination. While I am not sure where this idea originated from, I know it is not true. Seafood and cheese go great together. Here is a different way to stuff and cook Soft Shells.

Stuffed Soft Shell Crab Bake

8 soft shell crabs

16 wedges Swiss cheese

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon garlic chives, thinly sliced

8 ounces tomato sauce

8 sprigs parsley

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Place crabs in cool running water to rinse. Dry crabs, then gently lift up the “apron” on each crab and place a wedge of cheese on each side. Dip each crab into beaten egg then transfer to a plate and season with thyme and celery salt. Place seasoned crab onto breadcrumbs and cover top of crabs with breadcrumbs. Lay them side-by-side in a greased baking dish and sprinkle garlic chives evenly on top. Pour tomato sauce over all. Bake for 40 minutes. Place two crabs on a plate with a sprig of parsley.

If you are a crab lover, seek out Soft Shell Crabs. I often bring some back from New Orleans whenever I can. They freeze great. This allows them to be enjoyed out of season. However, they are always better fresh in the summer.

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