While I’m fiercely devoted to our local East End products, I’m also very fond of soft-shell crabs. They are extremely popular in season, which lasts through the summer months. Soft-shell crabs come from Maryland, Virginia and North and South Carolina.
It is only the blue claw crab that becomes the soft-shell crab. According to Jim Cornese of Cor-J’s in Hampton Bays, in order for these crabs to grow they must shed their old hard shells to become soft-shells. This is referred to as molting. As they grow, crabs molt at different times.
To clean the crab the face is cut, then the stomach and gills are removed; and the entire remaining crab is edible. Soft-shell crabs are sold by size—hotel, prime, large and jumbo, and priced accordingly. I recommend when purchasing soft-shell crabs to refrigerate and prepare them within one day following purchase.
Here’s a great recipe for them.
CRISPY SOFT-SHELL CRAB SANDWICH IN BRIOCHE
A scrumptious and lofty sandwich when piled high with lightly dressed greens in sliced brioche. The dressing and the arugula can be prepared and refrigerated up to one day ahead.
Makes 6 sandwiches
For the soft-shell crabs
6 large soft-shell crabs, cleaned
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tbs. fresh herb mix—rosemary, thyme, oregano
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 egg beaten with an equal amount of water
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the dressing
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
For the sandwich
12 slices of brioche sandwich loaf
2 bunches arugula, washed well and spin-dried
1. Rinse crabs and pat dry with towel. Combine the flour with the herbs and add salt and pepper to taste; stir to mix. Divide the flour mixture separately on two plates. In a small bowl beat the egg with water.
2. Dip the crabs in seasoned flour on both sides, then the egg, then flour again, shaking off excess.
3. Heat the oil until quite hot, but not smoking, in a nonstick skillet large enough to hold the crabs in one layer. (Cook in batches if necessary.) Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side depending on the size of the crabs. Set aside.
4. Mix the dressing ingredients in a bowl and spread thinly on each brioche half. Divide greens equally with one crab for each sandwich.
5. Cut sandwiches in half, on the diagonal, with a serrated bread knife and serve.