I have a confession to make. I, Charlene, have never eaten a soft shell crab. The thought of eating the whole crab truly frightened me. Now, most would think, so what. But being a native of Maryland this may be a culinary sin. You see Maryland is Crabs. Steamed crabs, crab cakes and soft shell crabs are the cornerstone of Maryland cuisine.
So, this weekend I faced my fear and ate my first soft shell crab. Wow, I was missing something special.
One of the specials on the menu was Soft Shell Tempura. Tempura is a Japanese dish of deep-fried seafood, meats or vegetables. Tempura batter is basically ice cold water, flour and egg. This method produces a fluffy and crisp product. And true to form, my first bite was pure crunch. A couple more bites had me tasting the meat, the sweet and succulent crab meat every seafood lover craves. Traditionally, soft shell sandwiches are served on white bread with lettuce and tomato. My bread was toasted and was served with a tomato sauce made with mayo, crushed tomatoes, chile powder and lime. Both great choices for this sandwich.
Soft shell crabs are Blue Crabs that have molted. The shedding of the old shell is the growing process of a hard shell crab. The crab remains soft for about 2-3 hours after molting. After which the shell turns hard again. Freshness is key to enjoying soft shell crabs.
Preparation for eating starts with removing the face, eyes, apron and lungs. This should be done just before cooking. They are then dipped in batter and fried.
I know hot dogs and hamburgers are at the top of the list for summertime foods but make some room for soft shell crabs. If you live along the eastern coastline they are available from May through September. Go ahead – there is nothing to be afraid of.