Indescribable joy accompanies the arrival each spring of our beloved succulent soft-shell crabs. These beautiful swimmers create enough ecstasy to cause even the angels to rejoice. Festivals are everywhere and blue crabs become like little pied pipers leading locals and visitors alike to the nearest restaurant in search of them.
All along the coastal Carolinas, in small towns like Kill Devil Hills, McClellenville, and Murrell’s Inlet, blue crabs bubble peacefully in long, shallow bathtubs. Their briny aroma is as nose-wrinkling as wasabi and the sheer excitement that comes with them is inexplicable.
Enjoy soft shell crab sauteed with a decadent lemon butter sauce. (recipe below)
Soft shell crabs, or “softies” are blue crabs that have recently molted their shells. They are often caught before they molt and kept in large tubs in order to be harvested before they can regrow a new shell. This means their entire bodies are edible: shells, claws, and all. Cleaned softies can be kept in the refrigerator, on ice, for 1 to 2 days at the most.
If you want to know all about soft shell crabs and how to clean them, here’s a link to an interesting site.https://www.cameronsseafood.com/
Lots of folks love to eat them fried to a golden crisp.
It’s a great spring afternoon when Craig Reaves pulls his truck into the parking lot of Sea Eagle Market on Boundary Street in Beaufort. That’s the day you know you’ll get to eat the freshest, most delectable seafood ever. And, if you hang around long enough, maybe you’ll hear a good. story or two. As much as I want to linger for a visit, I hardly ever take time. because I’m eager to rush home to start cooking and eating those amazingly delicious soft-shell crabs.
The best way to cook a soft shell is with as little fuss as possible.
In their natural environment blue crabs begin shedding their shells in late March, a process called molting. This allows these sideways scurrying creatures to grow larger. In this unprotected state, they become soft shells and can be cooked into a delicacy.
My personal favorite way is to sautee them with a caper brown butter sauce.
Sauteed Soft-Shell Crabs
4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and rinsed
2 cups all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup good dry white wine
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 lemon juiced
a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley
Place the flour in a dish and season with salt and pepper. Sometimes I use super fine flour such as Wondra. Dredge the crabs in the seasoned flour to coat them, shaking off the excess. Heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium-high flame. Lay the crabs in the hot oil in a single layer without crowding the pan. You will need to fry them in two batches. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, turning only once, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, set aside, and cover with foil to keep them warm.
Lower the heat to medium and add the butter to the pan. Allow it to melt until it begins to brown. Add the capers and wine; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until almost dry. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the caper brown butter sauce over the crabs and serve with lemon wedges. It’s just that simple!
Use a good Sauvignon Blanc – something you can drink with this fabulous dinner.
Beaufort, South Carolina has an extraordinary dining room tucked inside the Anchorage Inn on Bay Street. When you’re in the mood to be spoiled just a bit, make a reservation and dine on some of the finest cuisine prepared by Chef Daniel Salazar.
Sit on the veranda and sip a very good chardonnay while looking out over the Beaufort River. I can feel the soft warm breeze just thinking about it.
Beedos – shh, don’t tell anyone but this is some of the finest seafood you’ll find anywhere!
If you’re in shorts and flip-flops, drop in at Beedos, 1634 Sea Island Parkway where you’ll find one of the best chefs in the area.
Don’t be fooled by the unpretentious little building. It never disappoints!