Another Yellow Umbrella Lesson: Cooking Soft-Shell CrabsPosted: June 7, 2011
Last night, I finally made good on my promise to learn to cook soft-shell crabs at home. Thanks to cooler weather at the end of last week, the Yellow Umbrella had received some soft-shells that they were happy to sell, and they were just as happy to teach me what to do with them. It turns out that, like most fresh seafood, only the simplest preparation is necessary to proudly serve these to family or friends.
Once again, the guys behind the counter at the Yellow Umbrella were unbelievably helpful and knowledgeable. When my salesman/teacher of the day (I’ll call him Mr. YU2) heard that I had never before cooked soft-shells, he patiently walked me through the process. The first step is cleaning the critters. See how cute this guy is?
Mr. YU2 explained that those soulful eyes need to be sliced off with one straight cut running just behind them. The tail also needs to be sliced off with another straight cut right where it joins the body.
Then you peel back the soft-shell from the outside edge of each side of the body and remove the gills.
While either a knife or kitchen scissors work for slicing, you can use your fingers to remove the gills. That doesn’t sound too difficult, but because it was my first hands-on experience, Mr. YU2 kindly did the honors.
After cleaning, the cooking is easy. In a heavy, high-sided skillet, heat olive oil and butter in a 2:1 proportion until the butter melts. Prepare an egg wash in a shallow bowl. I was cooking five medium-sized soft-shells, and 2 eggs with just a splash of water was more than enough. In another shallow bowl, stir 1 cup flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few turns of freshly ground pepper. I added a tablespoon of Old Bay to kick up the flavor a notch.
One at a time, dip each crab in the egg wash to cover, dredge through the flour mixture and place in the hot oil/butter. Repeat with remaining crabs, but don’t crowd them in the skillet. I cooked my five in two batches. Let the crabs cook on medium-high heat about 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Look how gorgeous they came out.
The Hub was surprised at how good my crisp and juicy soft-shells tasted. Our teens had never before even seen a soft-shell crab, much less eaten one, so I had cooked the fifth crab for them to sample along with their chicken. They each gave the crab legs a thumbs up. That’s a good start. Next time I’ll make theirs a sandwich.
Thanks to the guys at the Yellow Umbrella, I’ve got another dish to add to the repertoire. I’ll be returning soon for another lesson. How about you?
All photos by Avad Fan.