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Old 04-13-2006, 05:01 AM   #1
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Soft Shell Crab season

is upon us! Anyone have any neat recipes for DH's favorite? Or for a sauce to go w/them?

I usually prepare my SSC with seasoned flour, buttermilk, and panko crumbs, then fry in a butter/oil mixture. Usual sauce is a browned butter sauce made with the crumbs left in the pan, seasoned w/garlic, shallots, a little white wine.

Am thinking of a SSC salad, and some type of 'cream' dressing, maybe?

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Old 04-13-2006, 07:03 AM   #2
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Oh, darn, my absolute favorite food of the gods. For a long time I just sauteed them in butter, but more recently I have very lightly floured them and sauteed in butter. I really like them that way.
Louis Osteen of Charleston and Pawley's Island fame serves his soft shells on fried green tomatoes.
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Old 04-13-2006, 08:12 AM   #3
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I LOVE soft shell crabs-My husband usually just dredges them in a flour/old bay mixture and deep fries them- YUM. He also grilled them but, I don't remember how he prepared them.The unhealthy deep fried way is till my favorite. I put it on a Kaiser roll with lettuce and tomato and a tiny bit of mayo.
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Old 04-13-2006, 08:23 AM   #4
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I pretty much follow suit with the rest of you. I dredge in seasoned flour, then saute about 4 minutes per side in a combination of extra virgin olive oil & butter. I then remove the crabs & add a splash of white wine, the juice from half a lemon, & sometimes a crushed garlic clove or 2 & a tablespoon of capers if I'm feeling "fancy".

Traditional accompaniments are Ore-Ida shoestring potatoes & garlic-butter-sauteed fresh spinach.
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Old 04-13-2006, 09:29 AM   #5
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Sure wish I could get bushel of blue crab in CA! We sure did enjoy them when we lived in Virginia Beach. Yummy! Sometimes you can buy for $2 each! Never see SSC tho.
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Old 04-13-2006, 10:26 AM   #6
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Being land-locked in the Heartland, we don't get them here. I did have them at a restaurant in Florida once. Question: are you supposed to be able to eat the shells? The ones I had did have a soft shell, but it was leathery and not chewable.
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Old 04-13-2006, 10:36 AM   #7
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Yes - a properly harvested & cooked soft-shelled crab is completely edible - no waste - & they shouldn't be "leathery".

If the shell was too "leathery", that can only mean that wherever the restaurant got their crabs from passed on crabs that had already started to harden their shells.

Soft-shell crabs are regular Blue Crabs that are going thru their molting process. Right after they molt, the entire crab is soft & tender - shell & all. However, within 24 hours the shell starts to harden, which makes sense when you think about the crab having to survive in the wild. A soft shell makes the crab more vulnerable to predators, thus the faster the shell hardens, the safer the crab is.

Soft-shell crab harvesters normally keep the crabs (called "shedders") in underwater cages & check them constantly in order to pull the ones that have just shed to be sold as "soft shells". They have to be diligent, because once a crab has shed, even it's own companions will eat it.

My guess is that either the restaurant you visited overcooked the crabs, or you were served crabs that had passed the 24-hour shell-hardening period.
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Old 04-13-2006, 01:59 PM   #8
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Hi Constance,
Have you asked the frozen food manager at your local grocery to order soft shell crabs for you? They do freeze quite well.
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Old 04-13-2006, 02:26 PM   #9
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This is just my opinion & experience, but I will NEVER buy regular frozen soft-shell crabs - or even freeze them myself for that matter.

One year, the stores around here were glutted with them, & they were alive - like crawling around the seafood case alive. I bought a slew of them, cleaned them, & froze them - individually vacuum-wrapped I might add. Defrosted & cooked neither the texture nor the taste were the same. They were too soft & too "fishy". Yuck. Same goes for those I've bought from reputable markets around here that have been cleaned/frozen/defrosted. You'll usually find them in little individual plastic wrappers. Again, yuck - especially for the price.

Again, this is personal opinion, but I'd hate to see someone put off of eating Soft Shelled Crabs due to eating bad frozen/defrosted ones. They can't hold the glint of a candle to fresh ones in season.

If you can, try to buy fish & shellfish in season - you're much better off & will enjoy them more.
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Old 04-13-2006, 07:20 PM   #10
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Here's what we ended up doing -

Crabs were covered with flour seasoned with Old Bay, sauteed in oil/butter mixture. Served on a bed of mixed greens/baby spinach, with sauce/dressing of:

sour cream, red wine vinegar, EVOO, salt/pepper, chopped fresh herbs (from the garden!!), chervil, parsley, garlic chives and tarragon.

It was very much yum! And looked pretty, too.
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Old 04-14-2006, 12:17 PM   #11
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I agree with you Breeze that fresh is always best, but sometimes when they're out of season and you really really want one, you can make do with a frozen one. Both taste and texture are definately affected, but I can overlook that a bit when it's freezing cold outside, middle of winter and I'm warm and snug in my kitchen smelling the wonderful aroma of softcrabs sizzling in a pan. Along the same lines, I really got spoiled while working at a couple of job sites in Louisiana where the shrimp, fresh, (never froze) served with the heads on were absolutely fantastic! The taste and texture was much better than the frozen 5lb. boxes that we get here in Md.
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Old 04-14-2006, 12:41 PM   #12
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Actually, I've purchased frozen/thawed "breaded" soft-shells out of season that haven't been bad. Guess that breading covers a multitude of evils - lol!!

You're very luck to have had the chance to have shrimp that fresh. Once in a blue moon one can get them fresh & with the head on around here - but it's very rare.

I remember my mom telling me that years ago in NY they stopped selling them with the heads because many housewives simply wouldn't buy them that way - felt they were too ugly & looked like large insects - lol!!!
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Old 05-05-2006, 09:48 AM   #13
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This the biggest treat of the spring and summer for my hubby and me.I have loved them since I was a child and Hubby got addicted when i introduced them to him. I love them Fried in breadcrumbs seasoned with old bay and parsely salt and pepper. Must aleays have a fresh cold slaw with it. Even top it in the sandwich with the slaw. A great tarter and were in heaven. I'm fortunate that on Long Island our season is may- sept and wecan buy them alive. For anyone who has never tried this treat from the season please do.
Its something to really look foward to all year.
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Old 05-13-2006, 03:16 PM   #14
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I've never had soft shell crab. Is it true that you can eat the shell? Is it crunchy?
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Old 05-13-2006, 04:37 PM   #15
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crunchy shell

the shell is not crunchy.When it softens the whole crab takes on a new texture. When you fry it the shell or what i consider in this stage a skin becomes crunchy from the frying. The claws also which are my favorate.
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Old 05-13-2006, 07:10 PM   #16
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When breaded or battered & fried, it's crispy/crunchy. When just floured & sauteed, it's more tender/chewy.

And some crabs will be chewier than others depending on how long it's been since they molted their old shell. Since the crab in the wild is extremely vulnerable to predators during the molting process, the shell begins to harden again fairly quickly. Commercial crabbers can tell when crabs they've caught are "shedders" & will keep them in submerged "pens", checking daily & removing those that have shed their old shell & shipping them out asap.
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Old 05-13-2006, 08:52 PM   #17
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Yes, the shell is "crunchy"--but just not crispy. It is SOFT, as the denotation is. And you eat it all.
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