It was absolutely exhilarating. I've never done such a thing before. And may never get the chance to do so again. A rope in one hand to let the bacon graze the bottom of the ocean, and a net in the other. It's by far the most interesting way I've procured dinner to date. Meet Big Blue, my first and most likely last, soft-shell catch.
The yummiest catch
It started as a fun quest for crab pets with a super fun ten-year-old girl. The tiny crabs living among the rocks of Salt Island, Connecticut, and in long summer days are back home in the Long Island Sound by sunset. But once Big Blue (above) scurried out from under the rock island, it was on like Donkey Kong. Apparently, crustaceans are easily charmed by cured pork (who isn't?).
How to clean a soft-shell crab
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 chef and 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 it by (yikes!) cutting off its face (insert shrieking and emotional scarring).
Please forgive the fuzzy iPhone photos just this once.
Then you scrape the gills away from under the top of the soft shell. They look like little pointy tongues. They are not edible times.
Last remove the apron from the underside with a quick snip. On male crabs such as Big Blue it will be thinner than a female's apron, which are wider (below).
The fun part: how to cook soft-shell crab
My favorite way to cook and eat soft-shell crab is a method I learned while working at Bouchon Bistro in Napa Valley. Crisp it up until perfectly browned in great butter, then sauté in some shallots and capers, and finish with lemon juice and parsley. Simple and quick, you'll be tasting the Long Island Sound before you know. Minus the emotional scarring.
If you eat gluten-free, feel free to dust the crab with a gluten-free flour. For GAPS, finely-ground almond flour or omitting flour both work here.
- 1 soft shell crab, cleaned of face, gills and apron (buy live or flash-frozen, if possible)
- 4 tablespoons butter, unsalted, more if needed
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons capers
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 lemon, juiced
flour, for dusting on crab (can use gluten-free flour or rice flour)
- 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. You want your crab to get nicely brown 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 (chef secret). Garnish with lemon juice and more parsley.
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.
Keywords: crab recipe, soft shell crab, blue crab, paleo, gaps, keto, gluten free