Posted April 29, 2014 04:33 pm - Updated April 30, 2014 09:31 am
Come this time of the year, many seafood lovers want to know how to best to handle in-season soft-shell crabs. Pricey – and a delicacy – soft-shell crabs should be alive when you purchase them, so look for the liveliest ones at the market. You can ask the folks at the market to dress (clean) the crabs for you, or you may clean them yourself, but for a sweet, fresh-from-the sea flavor, be sure to clean live soft-shell crabs just before you are ready to cook them. It’s best not to mask the subtle flavor of soft-shell crabs with elaborate recipes, so simply sautéing them is a good method of preparation, enhanced with nothing more than a splash of fresh lemon juice and a smattering of minced parsley. As a side dish, it’s hard to beat fresh asparagus, also in season, scrumptious brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with a bit of coarse sea salt and charred to a rich mahogany brown. Plan to allow two medium/large soft-shell crabs per person as part of meal, with one “jumbo” crab ample for a satisfying sandwich, comprised of a toasted bun and toppings such as tomatoes, lettuce and homemade tartar sauce. Soft-shell crabs cook quickly, about four minutes per side depending on their size, and should be served immediately after cooking for optimum flavor. Glorious and mouthwateringly delectable, soft-shell crabs are in season. Buy them now. Buy them live. And, eat them for as long as you can.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dressing (cleaning) soft-shell crabs
1. With sharp scissor or kitchen shears, cut across the soft-shell crab’s “face,” removing the eyes and mouth. If a translucent-looking membrane is visible just inside the newly made opening, remove it.
2. Lift the pointed ends on each side of the top of the crab and remove the spongy, fibrous gills.
3. Turn the soft-shell on its back and pull or snip off the “apron flap.”
4. Rinse crab under cool running water, then pat dry with a paper towel.
Sauteed Soft-Shell Crabs
6 medium to large soft-shell crabs, dressed
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil or pure vegetable oil
Lemons, for serving
Minced fresh parsley, for garnish
Season flour with salt and pepper. Dredge soft-shell crabs in seasoned flour, shaking off excess flour. Divide butter and oil between 2 large skillets and heat over medium-high heat. Add soft-shell crabs, top side down, and cook for about 4 minutes, per side, depending upon size. Drain crabs on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve with fresh lemons and minced fresh parsley. Serves 3. Kitchen Ade note: When cooking more than three soft-shell crabs at a time, use two skillets to prevent crowding.
Fresh Tartar Sauce
Soft-shell crab sandwiches are good on a toasted bun, topped with lettuce, tomatoes and fresh tartar sauce.
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
2 teaspoons minced sweet onion
1 teaspoon minced capers (optional)
¾ teaspoon fresh minced dill or ¼ teaspoon dried
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
Combine ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Refrigerate at least one hour before using. Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to one month. Makes about 1 cup.
1 pound asparagus (look for large, thick spears)
Lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, Asiago cheese (optional, for serving)
Preheat broiler on high setting. Cut about 1 inch from the bottom of the asparagus to remove woody ends. Rinse, dry and pat dry on paper towels. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place asparagus in a single layer on the prepared pan. Lightly brush asparagus with oil and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Broil 8 to 10 minutes for thick spears, about 6 minutes for thinner spears, turning and shaking pan halfway through broiling time, until spears are charred to a mahogany brown color. (Watch spears near end of broiling time to keep from burning.) Serve immediately. Makes 2 to 3 servings. Kitchen Ade note: Broiled asparagus is delicious drizzled with fresh lemon juice, balsamic vinegar or a sprinkling of shaved Asiago cheese.