I used to be weirded out by soft crabs. I wrote about it.
I’m a Baltimore kid, so I’ve been eating steamed blue crabs as long as I can remember. I am a very skilled crab picker. I worked at a crab house when I was a teenager – Bill’s Seafood in Perry Hall – and on occasion, I steam my own crabs at home. Crabs are probably my favorite thing to eat. Sitting around a picnic table in your backyard is so communal – you sit for hours and hours. Your hands are so messy, you definitely can’t grab your phone every five minutes (that’s a bonus.) Slowing down is something I think we all need a lot more of, don’t you?
But, yeah, it took me a minute to be down with soft crabs. The idea of eating – like, fully eating – the legs was just too weird. No. Then, I went to my friend Susan’s house for dinner. She asked if I liked soft crabs and I said yes. I lied. I totally lied. She put them on the grill with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I think she also added some Old Bay, too. Perfectly crispy and delicious, not weird at all. Dipping the legs in some aioli was pretty damn tasty.
I was hooked.
I make fried soft crabs sandwiches every year when they’re in season. To me, this has to be super UN-fancy. Smooshy white bread, mayo, Old Bay and a warm fried soft crab? Summer perfection. (Maybe add a tomato from the garden but then you have to add bacon…am I right?)
And right NOW, it’s time to get your fill of soft crabs. ‘Tis the season, hon! The folks at Downtown Partnership are hosting Soft-Shell Crab Celebration with Baltimore chefs creating soft crab dishes celebrating this wonderful Chesapeake Bay delicacy. It runs from June 4-15, 2015. Here’s the list and some of the offerings:
Baby greens with summer corn salsa and cherry tomatoes topped with a cornmeal fried soft-shell and jumbo lump crab served with old bay vinaigrette
Beer battered jumbo soft-shell crabs smothered in authentic buffalo sauce served with carrots, celery, and bleu cheese
Cornmeal pan fried jumbo on a potato kaiser with lettuce, tomato, dill tartar, and choice of side
Fried Green Tomatoes
Local cornmeal fried tomatoes and jumbo soft-shells with summer corn salsa and balsamic reduction
Toasted farm white bread with lettuce, tomato, dill tartar, apple wood bacon, and a pan fried jumbo served with choice of side,
Soft-Shell Crab Salad with house greens, pickled radish, shaved corn, tomato, feta cheese and carrots
Stuffed Soft-Shell Imperial with stuffed with crab, topped with imperial crab, roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes and apple slaw, $28
Grilled Soft-Shell with fresh lemon pepper, tri pepper smoked creamed corn and swiss chard
Cornmeal Hazelnut Crusted Soft-Shell with creamy polenta, king trumpet mushrooms and braised kale
Beer battered soft-shell with twice loaded baked potato, sweet corn puree, spring peas, pearl onion and pea tendrils
B&O American Brasserie
Lunch: Crab Tacos, grilled soft-shell crab, green tomato salsa, tarragon crema, corn tortilla and topped with house hot sauce
Dinner: Grilled Soft-Shell Crab with crushed leeky potatoes, green tomato salad, chili-lime butter, and crispy corn
Fritto Misto – deep fried soft shell crab, shrimp, calamari, octopus and anchovies with tempura fried zucchini, asparagus, onion and lemon rind served over baby lettuce with chili, garlic and mayo
Soft-shell crabs with a light spring salad, beer battered soft-shell, and Marylanders’ favorite sandwich.
Corn Crusted Soft-Shell Crab with grilled radicchio salad with walnuts, parmesan and roasted corn; champagne vinaigrette
Tempura Maryland Soft-Shell Crab Tacos with red cabbage slaw and smoked guacamole
(From his latest cookbook, Home)
Guy Fieri’s Kitchen + Bar
Soft-Shell Crab Po’boy – Old bay slaw, donkey sauce, onion, pickle, tomato on a garlic buttered hoagie
Jack Binion’s Steak
Tempura Fried Soft-Shell – Cherry pepper coulis, heirloom cherry tomato salad, corn macque choux
Fried Soft-Shell Crab Taco – With grilled green onion aioli and corn salsa
Soft-shell crabs grilled and topped with a Trapanese sauce paired with grilled asparagus
Miss Shirley’s Café
Soft-Shell Feller Benedict
Cornmeal encrusted soft-shell, Chesapeake chicken sausage gravy, stone ground grits with diced bacon & poached eggs on a jumbo English muffin with pimento cheese & Old Bay hollandaise sauce, Tabasco bacon onion jam & chow chow, dusted with Old Bay
Bay-O Po’ Boy
Cornmeal encrusted soft-shell, Tabasco bacon onion jam, bibb lettuce,red, & yellow tomatoes on ciabatta, dusted with Old Bay
Pan Seared Soft-Shell Crabs with local heirloom tomatoes, frisee and jalapeno and smoked applewood bacon jam
Soft-shell Crab with fava bean crema and preserved lemon salsa verde.
Crispy Soft-Shell Appetizer
Sautéed soft-shell crab over a tangy bbq, bacon & corn salad with a buttermilk biscuit & spicy aioli
Soft-Shell Summer Salad
Black pepper fried soft-shell crab served atop a fresh summer salad of arugula, asparagus, corn & tomato tossed in apple cider vinaigrette
Sautéed soft-shell crabs topped with vinegar slaw on brioche, served with pickles & smoky aioli
Deep fried soft-shells served with sweet potato puree, roasted corn & market sauce
Regi’s American Bistro
Lunch: Whale Soft-Shells, pan fried with house potato chips, boule roll, homemade cole slaw
Dinner: Twin Whale Soft Shells, pan fried/ Southern Maryland style fried green tomatoes with Old Bay hollandaise and sweet corn pudding
Brunch: Pan fried stuffed in four egg omelet with rooftop baby spinach or as a sandwichA soft-shell inspired breakfast
Sip Kitchen & Wine Bar
Ware House 518
Wit & Wisdom
Blue Crab Tasting: 3 oz crab cake, crispy soft-shell crab, tomato crab soup
If you’d like to try soft crabs at home, it’s easy! Get fresh soft crabs from a reputable place – where you can be sure they are fresh (they might be wiggling a little bit) – like Conrad’s, the Baltimore Farmers Market (JFX), Whole Foods, etc. There are a few ways to prepare them – flour dredged and fried, sautéed on the stove and even just a simple grilled preparation.
And, here is a soft-shell crab recipe from one of my favorite food resources, Tasting Table:
Soft-Shell Crabs with Radish Salad
Recipe adapted from Mike Lata, The Ordinary and FIG, Charleston, SC
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
For the Soft-Shell Crabs:
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons Old Bay
4 soft-shell crabs
6 tablespoons butter, divided
Kosher salt, to taste
For the Radish Salad:
12 cornichons, sliced lengthwise
6 radishes, thinly sliced
2 cups flat-leaf parsley
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
1. Make the soft-shell crabs: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and Old Bay.
2. Lightly dredge the soft-shell crabs in the cornmeal mixture and set aside.
3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt half of the butter. When the butter begins to foam, working in 2 batches, fry the crabs, belly-side down. Cook, swirling the pan often, until the crabs are golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the crabs, turn the heat down to medium and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining 2 crabs.
4. Transfer the crabs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and season with salt while they’re still hot.
5. In a medium bowl, toss the cornichons, radishes, parsley, scallions, shallots, lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt.
6. Divide the soft-shell crabs and radish salad among 4 plates and serve.
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