It’s that time of year again! Soft-shell crabs are like little Pied Pipers – they have people following them into restaurants from Pawley’s Island down through McClellanville, Murrell’s Inlet, Beaufort and beyond. They come faithfully year after year and vanish almost as suddenly as they arrive.
What’s all the excitement about? Well, a soft-shell crab is a blue crab that has molted its old exoskeleton and is still soft. Their sweet and subtle briny flavor is amazingly delicious – like a taste of the ocean itself.
Now that our restaurants are closed, we need to enjoy cooking them at home. It’s pretty easy to either fry or saute them. Don’t be afraid to try this. Really, if I can do it, anyone can do it.
My favorite way to eat them is to saute them in this luscious white wine sauce. Have your fishmonger clean them first before you bring them home. It makes everything simple. I learned this recipe years ago from a Gullah chef on Hilton Head Island who was famous for having the best soft shell crabs on the island. His restaurant is no longer there but this recipe is legendary. Here’s how it goes.
Tideland Sauteed Soft-Shell Crabs
4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and patted dry
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons capers, drained
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
First, season the cleaned crabs with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour. Shake off any excess and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and saute the crabs until soft, about 2 minutes on each side. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan or they will steam.
Transfer crabs to a plate, spoon sauce over crabs and sprinkle with a little more chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon. You will love the flavor and texture this recipe allows.