Restaurants, even nicer ones, often use frozen soft shells, even during fresh season. Managing fresh softies that have to be cooked within 1-2 days can be a real challenge. But buying them to cook at home? You can have an even BETTER product than you will out at a restaurant.
Blue crabs begin to shed their shells the first full moon in May and usually continue until September 1. But this year fresh soft shells are STILL available and look to be available for a few more weeks.
“Watermen” who navigate the Chesapeake Bay still harvest softies using old-fashioned traps to harvest crabs. They are packed in straw and shipped live all over the world.
So what do you do with them at home?
Most likely, you don’t want to “dress” the crab yourself, so let you fishmonger do that. Dressing a soft shell means cutting out all the inedible parts.
Then just deep fry or pan fry a soft shell. Dust the soft shell with a little flour and fry about 3-4 min per side. Want them cajun-style? Season your flour with some Old Bay or Tony’s and fry in peanut oil. Asian-style? Coat with Panko bread crumbs and fry in sesame oil. For a spicy surprise rub a little wasabi inside the crab before frying.
Soft shell crabs are as much about texture as taste…and fresh soft shells have a significantly better texture than frozen ones. So jump on fresh softies this fall while they are still available.
At TJ’s, we are getting soft shells delivered on Fridays as long as we can.
Change your life: eat more fish!
Jon Alexis is the co-owner of TJ’s Fresh Seafood Market & Catering, 11661 Preston Road, Dallas, and writes about seafood for EscapeHatch.