Thursday, May 5, 2016

It's that time of year.......
Maryland Watermen are smiling
Soft Shell Crabs are Here!

Typical Soft Shell Serving
Soft shell crabs usually start showing up in the Chesapeake Bay during the first full moon in May. This year, the crabs were impatient and the season has begun a couple of weeks early.

In this post we'll discuss a little of the history of this seasonal treasure, how to properly clean a soft shell crab and a delicious recipe for Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Tabasco Mash Remoulade.

As I mentioned earlier, the season usually begin with the first full moon in May. That's when the water temperature is hot enough for the crabs to "sluff" or shed their outer shell. For commercial purposes, this has to  be done in a controlled environment. Crabs with soft shells are very vulnerable to prey. 

Several weeks prior to this, watermen set their traps for crabs, return to the dock and place the crabs in special holding tanks. As the crabs shed their shells, they are move to a separate tank where they are held before being shipped to market. It's a painstaking process that requires a lot of babysitting.

Or you can do it like I did when I was a kid. Grab your crab net, an old pair of tennis shoes and walk the shallow grass flats in the Chesapeake hoping to stir one up! I must say, I was pretty successful. Enjoy the crabs!

Chef Joe

First Step in Cleaning
Cleaning the crabs are pretty easy. First, using a sharp knife, remove the face of the crab. Remember to fold the claws and legs under the crab so they don't get accidentally cut off.

Second Step
Next, turn the crab over and remove the apron. By the way, a narrow apron indicates a male crab and a wide apron indicates a female. 

 Last Step
Next, lift each tip of the tip shell and remove the lungs. The lungs are nicknamed "devil's fingers". It's a wives tale that if you eat them you will have stomach trouble. None the less, don't take a chance, remove them!

Now your crabs are ready for your favorite cooking method. My two favorite are sautéed and fried. 

Crispy Soft Shell Crab
Serves 4

Seasoned Flour:
2 cups  All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons  Old Bay Seafood Seasoning

4 each Soft Shell Crabs, cleaned 
as needed Seasoned Flour
3  Eggs, beaten with 1 Tbl. of milk
Vegetable Oil
4 slices  Vine Ripe Tomato, 3/8" thick
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
4 cups  Baby Greens
4 Tbl. Remoulade Sauce

In a heavy gauge skillet with tall sides, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat. The oil should be roughly 1" deep. Check temperature with a thermometer. Ideally, we're looking for 350 degrees.  Adjust the heat as necessary. Dredge the crabs in seasoned flour. Shake off any excess flour.  Dip the crabs in beaten eggs and allow excess to drain off. Return the crabs to the seasoned flour and coat completely.

Fry the crabs top shell down until golden and crisp, approximately 2-3 minutes. Carefully turn the crabs and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.  Remove them to a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess grease.

Rub tomato slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on a charcoal grill for 1 minute on each side
In a small mixing bowl, lightly toss the greens with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

To plate:
Place the tomato slice in the center of the plate and a small mound of dressed greens above it. Place a dollop of Remoulade sauce to the right of the tomato and drag with the back of a spoon to make a decorative swoosh. Place the crab on top of the tomato and serve immediately.  

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Big Fish Dearborn, MI -
Big Fish Princeton, NJ -
Charley's Crab Grand Rapids, MI -
Gandy Dancer Ann Arbor, MI-
Grand Concourse, PA -
Gandy Saloon, Pittsburg, PA
Meriwether's, Southfield, MI  -
River Crab, St Clair, MI -

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