Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Soft-Shell Crabs

 Soft-shell crabs are blue crabs that have recently molted their old exoskeleton and are still soft.  They come in five sizes: mediums, jumbos, hotels, whales, and primes. They taste sweet and tender with a mild tangy flavor. They are readily available in US markets from April until September although the peak of their season is May through July. I picked up a couple last week ($4.99/each) and brought them home for a little appetizer.

My favorite way to enjoy these crabs is dredged in seasoned cornstarch and deep-fried until they are golden brown and crisped to perfection.  Some people use AP (all purpose) flour and/or panko crumbs as well but I prefer to keep the breading light.

First things first.

Rinse your crabs and gently dry them.

Heat your oil. If you happen to have a counter top deep-fryer on-hand (a la Paula Deen) then heat it to 375 F. If not, pour vegetable, canola, peanut oil, or a blend of the three into a sturdy pot and start heating it until it is between 350 F and 375 F.

Next, pour cornstarch into a bowl (I love Bob's Red Mill cornstarch but any cornstarch will do).  Add your seasoning.  At the minimum, add sea salt and pepper and then go from there. I added some Japanese Togarashi (red chili pepper blend) for some heat, sesame seeds (white and black), and garlic powder but like I said, you can season it any way you want.

For dipping sauce, I like to keep it simple here as well (surprise, surprise).  In my opinion, nothing beats  Japanese Ponzu sauce topped with some chopped scallions.  Kikkoman makes an awesome store-bought Ponzu (picture below) that is readily available in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores. If you want to get crazy and make your own Ponzu, simply mix together 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 Tbsp rice vinegar, and 1/3 cup dashi stock.

Once your oil reaches temperature, dredge the crabs in the cornstarch and toss them (gently) into the pot. Fry until GBD (golden brown and delicious). Remove crabs and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Serve immediately along side Ponzu dipping sauce.

We ate the crabs so quickly that I forgot to snap a picture (amateur move!) but luckily I found this picture below via Fine Cooking that is pretty close to what ours looked like.

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