Quick and Easy Soft Shell Crabs

It’s the MOST wonderful time of the year. The weather is becoming warmer, the flowers are in full bloom and it is the right time for some of my favorite seafood in the world…
Soft-shell crabs. Though you can get these year round at restaurants, their season is REALLY late spring. This is when they are fresh, incredibly sweet and mild flavored. You want to get them from a reputable fishmonger or grocery store. There should be absolutely no smell, and if they are live when you buy them, that is even better. Ask to get them packed on ice, if possible, and ask them to be cleaned before you take them home. That way, all you have to do is cook and eat them!!

The flavor is like lump crab, but there is this irresistible crispy texture when they are sauteed. You just eat the entire thing, and it is so crunchy, creamy, fresh, meaty…if you like crab or lobster, you will LOVE softshell crab! It is one of the easiest seafoods to enjoy, thanks to its mild flavor and fantastic texture. I could eat about 4 of these at one time…

But wait, I am getting ahead of myself. 
First, lets prepare the accoutrements:
All you need is fennel, a sweet onion and a head of red cabbage. Or you could use green cabbage if you have that in the house. You could sub in celery root for fennel. Use a shallot instead of an onion if you want. As always, here at Fritos and Foie Gras, this is a jumping off point, not a steadfast rule.
 Using just the bulb of the fennel, cut it in half so you have a flat side, 
 then chop it into matchsticks. Save the fronds if you want, and throw the licoricy strands into salads or to cook with fish or chicken. 
 Now you peel off the waxy, outer layers of the cabbage – you don’t want those pathetic wilted things. 
THIS is what your cabbage should look like. Cut in half, then into thin shreds, 
dice that onion, 
 And toss all the veggies in a big bowl. 
 Here is a VERY important part. The herbs. Herbs MAKE this slaw – without it, you might as well throw some decaying slivers of iceberg lettuce in some Miracle Whip and call it a day. The herbs make this slaw bright, layered with flavor and make it taste WAY harder to make than it actually is. And, isn’t that what it’s all about? Convincing our friends and family that we are better than them and they could never do this?

Chives, dill and tarragon. Chervil would be great here too. Mince a good 2 tablespoons of each and toss them in the salad bowl. 
Now onto the dressing:
 Roll a lemon on the counter, putting a LOT of pressure on it. This really gets the juices flowing.
Sorry, REALLY tried to resist that one, but I just couldn’t
Wait…it’s my blog…I’m not sorry at all. I crack myself up!
 Squeeze the juice of the whole lemon into a small bowl.
 Now add a 1.5 cups of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar and 1/3 of a jar of capers(without the brine).
Add about a tablespoon of Dijon mustard(or whatever mustard you like).
 And a couple of teaspoons of sugar (to round things out – lots of acid in there).
 Now, you pour the dressing on the veggies, mix it up and let it sit while you cook the softshells.  The flavors will really marry and change over then next hour or so. Be sure that if you are not eating immediately, you put it in the fridge.
 Of course, you should take a little taste now. Chef’s treat, dontcha know.
Now for the CRABS!!!
First, heat up about 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium high/high. You want that pan HOT so that the crabs cook quickly and don’t absorb excess oil while they cook, making them greasy and sodden.
 Now you want enough flour in which you can dredge the crabs and a seafood seasoning/house seasoning/seasoned salt with which to flavor the flour. Feel free to make your own with salt, pepper, paprika, celery salt and/or anything else you like. Not too much here- you want a light flavor that accents the taste of the crab, not that covers it. 
 Now, just toss the crabs in the flour mixture, 
 shake off the excess, 
 and plop those babies in the oil! Be sure to be careful when you put them in the oil, because there may be some splattering. These crabs cook rather quickly – you don’t need to cook them for more than about 4 minutes per side. You know to flip them when the legs turn orange and they feel hard on the side on which they were cooked.
 Excuse me, that was me drooling on my keyboard.
 Drain them on a paper towel – they gain a lovely, orangey color after they come out of the pan. 
 Then, you just make yourself a plat of the coleslaw, plop a crab on top, maybe squeeze a touch of lemon on the crab and…
Enjoy a hell of a meal. Crispy, salty, slightly spicy crust gives way to unbelievably mild, tender crabmeat. The legs are crispy, the body is buttery, and the overall taste is fresh and incredibly satisfying. The slaw cuts right through the rich meat and fried exterior, with the fennel and tarragon adding a hint of sweetness, the chives and onion adding some bracing freshness and the mayonnaise dressing is the creamy element that really pulls everything together. With a slice of sourdough bread, this just yells “SUMMER IS COMING.”
And with a meal like this, you know why it is the most wonderful time of the year. 


  1. Decaying iceberg and Miracle Whip…you crack ME up! I love soft shell crabs too. Have to get me some of those soon! Thanks for the post.

  2. Please make that for me. Thanks. Love you. Muah!

  3. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Dee-hahaha thank YOU for the ego boost!
    @Sarah-of course my daaaahlink!


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