Soft-Shell Crab Celebration: Downtown Chefs Create Signature Dishes Starring Local Seasonal Favorite

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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:


Alexander’s Tavern
Chesapeake Salad
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

Buffalo Soft-Shell
Beer battered jumbo soft-shell crabs smothered in authentic buffalo sauce served with carrots, celery, and bleu cheese

Classic Sandwich
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
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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


Diamond Tavern
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

Family Meal
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


Johnny Sanchez
Fried Soft-Shell Crab Taco – With grilled green onion aioli and corn salsa

Kona Grill

La Scala
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


The Oceanaire
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.

Phillips Seafood
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

Soft-Shell Sliders
Sautéed soft-shell crabs topped with vinegar slaw on brioche, served with pickles & smoky aioli

Soft-Shell Platter
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

Ryleigh’s Oyster

Sip Kitchen & Wine Bar

Ware House 518

Wit & Wisdom
Blue Crab Tasting: 3 oz crab cake, crispy soft-shell crab, tomato crab soup

The Four Seasons - Baltimore, MD
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.


Amy Langrehr

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