Saturday, June 4, 2011

Soft-shell crabs

I looooooooooooooooove soft-shell crabs. They're one of my favorite food indulgences, and if they're on a menu, I am forced to order them.

Soft-shell crabs are regular crabs, caught in the act of molting their old shell. This only happens during a particular time in their growth cycle, so they're only available for short periods of time during the year. Once they outgrow their old shell, it comes off, and there is a brief window before the new shell hardens up--so that the crab can be eaten entirely whole. No shell to shuck. You can eat it in one piece, legs, head, belly and all.

This may sound gross, but trust me, it's goooood. (And don't worry--the guts and whatnot cook into the meat, so that they're indistinguishable from the crabmeat itself.)

I found them at Whole Foods just before my dinner party last weekend, so I knew I had to work them into the menu somehow. The entree was shrimp n' grits (with fresh Gulf shrimp, chicken andouille sausage, and cheese grits with Comte cheese), so I used the soft-shell crabs as a particularly decadent garnish.

To cook them, soak them in milk for about an hour. Then dredge them through a mixture of all-purpose flour, mixed with a liberal amount of Old Bay, and fry in vegetable oil for a few minutes on each side until crispy. That's it. Serve hot.

I served these on top of the shrimp n' grits, but I've also served them on a bed of arugula with a fresh mango salsa, which--if possible--is even better.

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