It’s that time of the year the soft shell crabs are here!
A soft shell crab is just that — a blue crab that has recently molted its old exoskeleton and is still soft.
They’re mainly harvested from early May till September in Maryland, the Carolinas and Louisiana.
They are sold in five basic sizes: Whales, jumbos, primes, hotels and mediums. Whales are the biggest and are usually the most expensive. And they happen to be a personal favorite of mine.
When you go to your local fish market, select the ones that are still alive. If not, you may be getting a defrosted crab from last year’s harvest. If the fish market is good, it will be able to show you them before they are cleaned.
Soft shell crabs can be prepared many different ways — but they must be prepared crunchy or crispy. They have a super sweet taste and every part is edible. Here is a easy recipe that can be served at your next backyard party or as an appetizer or a main course.
With this recipe you will need some special equipment. You will need a mandolin and a mesh cover for your fry pan. Here we go:
Yields four dinner portions or 12 appetizers
For the crabs
12 soft shell crabs, cleaned
3 cups buttermilk
3 tbls. Old Bay seasoning
2 cups canola oil or peanut oil
2 cups white corn meal, seasoned with salt and pepper
For the slaw
1 medium zucchini, cut in half.
1 medium yellow squash, cut in Half
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
1 bunch scallion
1/4 head green cabbage
1 small carrot, peeled
2 tbls. sugar
3 tbls. rice vinegar
4 tbls. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. celery salt
Black pepper to taste
For the sauce
2 cups mayonnaise
2 tbls. capers, chopped
Juice from two lemons.
4 tbls. walnuts, chopped
2 tsp. chives, sliced
2 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Put the buttermilk in a bowl and add the Old Bay seasoning, mix well then add the crabs. Put them in the fridge and let sit for about four hours. This will give the crabs great flavor.
Set up your mandolin with the smallest blade you have. Slide the zucchini over it lengthwise using only the green part. Repeat with the yellow squash. Do the same with the carrot but use the whole carrot. You want the vegetables to look like long matchsticks or short linguine. Place in a bowl.
Julienne the peppers, cabbage and the scallion by hand with a knife, keeping your fingertips turned in. Toss in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and set aside.
Mix all the ingredients together for the sauce. Put in fridge.
Heat oil in your favorite fry pan over medium-high heat (oil should come halfway up the crab). Take the crabs straight from the buttermilk, dredge them in the corn meal, then place them in the oil, shell side down. Quickly put your mesh cover over them because they will pop and splatter all over.
Brown on each side about three-and-a-half minutes. Take them out and let them drain on paper towels.
After cooking all the crabs, present them with that beautiful slaw and your fancy shmancy remoulade!
Joe Raiola is the executive chef at Morton’s The Steakhouse [339 Adams St. between Willoughby and Tillary streets in Downtown, (718) 596-2700].