But it was not at the farmer's market, this past week, that I knew it was really spring. It was in the fish shop. They're here! They're really here! Finally, after waiting and wishing and hoping, there in perfect little rows were the soft shell crabs. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, when I made the Crab and Asparagus Tart, I'm a little crustacean crazy, by way of a generational tendency to crave them. When I was a kid and the Little Mermaid was my favorite movie, I didn't really understand why the Le Poisson song was supposed to be so shocking. Of course he'd want to cook the crab. They're delicious. Sorry Sebastian. Now shut up and get in the pot.
Soft shells, on the East Coast at least, are blue crabs in their molting phase. They molt their shells, and then can only be eaten as a soft shell for about four days before it grows back. During this time you can cook and eat them, shells and all. This is not to say you can eat the whole thing. Soft shell crabs do need to be "cleaned". And by cleaned I mean you have to cut it's face off. And rip out its lungs. While it's still alive. Here, let the chef from the Mermaid Inn show you how it's done. I'm certainly not going to. I make the fish monger do it.
Yeah, if you have a really nice fish salesman, you can make him do it. The crab then needs to be cooked the second you get home. If you want to store it in the fridge and cook it later, then you better buy them live and get ready to snip its face off.
Once the faces are off the little buggers, they are actually really easy to cook. You can batter and fry them, or bread and saute, I go with a milk soak, a seasoned fouring, and then sauteing in garlic, olive oil, and butter. Completely unhealthy, completely fantastic. The legs get all crispy and crunchy. The insides burst with flavor. And the best way to eat them, in my opinion, is to stick them on a really good roll, toasted, with mayo. Mmmmm.
Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches
-1/2 Cups Milk
-3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
-1 tsp Old Bay
-Salt and Pepper to Taste
-2 Tbs olive oil
-2Tbs Unsalted Butter
-2 Tbs Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
-4 High Quality Rolls, cut and toasted
Place crabs in shallow container in a single layer. Cover with milk. Let soak refrigerated for 1 hour. Drain and discard milk. Whisk together flour, salt, pepper, and Old Bay. Lightly dredge each crab in the mixture.
Heat the oil and butter together in skillet over medium high heat and saute the crabs until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Do not crowd the crabs, cook in batches if necessary, adding more oil and butter to the pan between batches.
Place one crab on each roll. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top. Add mayo if desired.
My one regret is that we had no lemon in the house. I think a squirt of fresh lemon juice on top of the crab would have been tasty. It has been enough to hold me over until the grown up crabs come in. You can't eat those shells. Therefore you just have to rip the crabs apart. Poor Sebastian.