The soft-shelled crabs I just enjoyed were courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay. Soft-shelled crabs also may come to us Michiganders from Floridian waters, depending on the vagrancies of habitat and water temperature. Soft-shell crabs are not a crab species, but distinguish themselves because of their development process.
When the crabs outgrow their shell, the delectable crustaceans shed (molt) their exterior, resulting in their infamous soft covering. Soon after, they begin rebuilding their shell.
Mike Monahan, owner of Monahan’s Seafood in Kerrytown, tells me: “The best soft-shelled crabs are sold and eaten within 24 hours of molting, and it’s tricky handling them to make that happen.”
“Watermen carefully read the color of the (crab) shells and get them into holding tanks at precisely the right time before they molt. Once they’ve molted,” continued Mike, “they are very fragile. The crabs must be packed in newspaper or straw and immediately shipped to us, alive and quickly, so we can sell them that day.”
Monahan’s does not sell frozen soft-shell crabs, only stocking the fresh ones. Mike tells me they are harvested after the first full moon over the Chesapeake Bay in May, and sold through Labor Day, give or take a couple of weeks. Mike recommends calling in advance, to ensure availability. I would also recommend you request they clean the crabs for you. Otherwise you must remove the face, apron, gills and innards yourself, a task ill-suited for the squeamish!
According to the website, bluecrab.info/molting, soft-shelled crabs stop eating prior to molting. This may be part of the reason properly cooked soft-shelled crab has a purity and essence of crab flavor at its most sublime.
This recipe is adapted from a recipe I’ve enjoyed (Arugula with Sautéed Softshell Crabs and Toast Points) from “Lettuce In Your Kitchen”, (1996) by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby.
Off the grid of late, spending every available minute, and every ounce of inspiration, on a book synopsis that had to be submitted last week. My two protagonists (female 31-year old first cousins) are of Polish descent, and Eastern European food has been on my mind. This salad is my daughter’s recipe and was inspired by my … Full recipe post »
Composed salads that include grilled proteins and vegetables are such a welcome addition to the summertime table, and certain meats, seafoods and vegetables lend themselves particularly well to these types of salads. And don’t forget the lettuce. Grilled lettuce—really? Absolutely. Certain heartier lettuces hold their shape and are marvelous when exposed to the heat of a grill. … Full recipe post »
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