It was absolutely exhilarating. I’ve never done such a thing before, and may never get the chance to do such a thing again. A short rope in one hand with the bacon end grazing the sandy bottom of the ocean, and a net in the other. It’s by far the most interesting way dinner has ended up on my plate.
It started as a fun quest for crab pets with my favorite ten-year-old girl. Typically, the tiny crabs living among the rocks of Salt Island, Connecticut are back home in Long Island Sound by sunset. But once Big Blue (below) scurried out from inside Crab Kingdom, it was on like Donkey Kong. Apparently, crustaceans are easily charmed by cured pork (aren’t we all?).
Although once we captured our prize crab and returned to the mainland, I wasn’t sure I had the guts to complete the deal. Then my husband and friends reminded me I am a culinary school graduate, which obligates me to serve up crispy, soft shell Salt Island blue crab in a timely fashion. So I set to work cleaning Big Blue, by (yikes!) cutting off its face (insert shrieking).
The next step is to scrape the gills away from under the top of the soft shell…
… then remove the apron from the underside with a quick snip.
It wasn’t until after I rinsed out our soon-to-be appetizer that my mind cleared of the self-inflicted drama, and the circumstance really hit me. Soft shell blue crab is a rare delicacy with a fleeting season. So the chance to catch one myself, clean it and crisp it up perfectly in brown butter, capers, lemon juice and parsley? No more hesitation, just absolute exhilaration.
Crispy Soft Shell Blue Crab
recipe and method can be adjusted per preference to suit any number of crabs
1 soft shell crab, cleaned of face, gills and apron (buy live if possible) 4 Tbs butter, unsalted, more if needed 1 shallot, minced 2 Tbs capers 1 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped 1 lemon, juiced Flour, for dredging crab
Method: Over medium heat in a sauté pan, melt butter until it bubbles and begins to brown. Lightly coat crab in flour, brushing off excess. Add crab to pan top-side down first, and cook about four minutes per side, flipping once, until nicely browned and crispy. Add more butter as necessary to keep a thin layer in the bottom of the pan.
Once the crab is cooked, remove and set aside. Add shallots to butter in pan and cook until golden brown, about a minute. Add capers, parsley and crab back to pan and heat just until warm. Finish with a tablespoon of butter, if desired. Garnish with lemon juice and more parsley.
Side Note. If dealing with live crabs, it is best to store them wrapped in damp newspaper or paper towels in the refrigerator (this will slow down their motor skills). Live crabs can also be frozen for ease of cleaning, and should be frozen if not being cooked right away. Let frozen crabs thaw in the refrigerator before cleaning and cooking.