Get some soft-shell crabs in hand this summer.
During several of its growth stages, a blue crab will shed, or molt, its hard shell. And within hours of those events, the new shell begins to harden. It’s just before the hardening begins that soft-shell crabs are harvested, chilled, and often frozen as one of the most delicious products from the sea. While June is usually considered to the end of molting season for blue crabs, you can now find them almost year-round. Thanks for that availability go to folks who spend long days and sleepless nights “babysitting” tanks of crabs in various stages of shedding and then furnishing them to specialty seafood stores throughout Florida.
Soft-shell crabs, often called “busters,” are sold in several sizes. I prefer the larger “jumbos” if they’re to be served as an entrée and smaller “hotels” if they’re to be used on a sandwich. No matter the end presentation, your crabs must be cleaned. That’s a quick and easy process, using scissors to cut off their face and then remove their gills and apron. After those parts are removed, the entire crab is tender and edible.
You can dredge your crabs in flour, salt and pepper and then sauté them in a few tablespoons of butter. But if you want to be totally decadent, make this simple batter and deep-fry them in hot oil.
4 “hotel”size soft-shell blue crabs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper
Beer or club soda
Mix the ingredients except crabs, using enough liquid to make a very thin batter. Coat the crabs and fry at 375 degrees until golden brown and crispy. Carefully remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato and a slathering of rémoulade sauce.
Combine and chill:
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 heaping tbsp. chili sauce
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
½ tsp. Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
First Published Florida Sportsman June 2014