Run—don't walk—to your local fish market and buy some soft-shell crab for a special treat this week. You'll hardly find a finer spring season delicacy, and they don't need much adornment to make them spectacular. Pan-fried, grilled, sauteed, or even deep-fried (there, I said it), you can't go wrong. Pair them with a simple sauce and crisp white wine.
I've been on a soft-shell kick this spring, which started recently in New Orleans. Hit the Acme Oyster House, where my tablemates and I feasted on soft-shell crab po' boys—simply dressed sandwiches with crunchy, juicy crab that practically explodes in your mouth. A few days later, we sampled the soft-shell crab with fava bean puree (pictured here) at Cuvee.
Back home last week, I continued the trend, making tempura-style soft shells with miso vinaigrette. If you go this route, use rice flour and cold club soda for the batter, which makes it supremely light and crisp.
Before you buy, check with the fishmonger to ensure the crabs are still live and kicking for maximum freshness. If you're going to use them soon after, have the fishmonger clean them. Otherwise, you'll need to slice off their faces and tear out their lungs and "aprons." The squeamish will call this cold-blooded savagery. I prefer to call it prep work.
Dish of the Week: Soft-Shell Crab Sandwiches
This recipe uses Old Bay, classic Chesapeake-area seasoning, in the dredging mixture. Substitute Cajun spices or any other seasoning, if you like.
Check out this story on soft-shell crabs for more tips and recipes.