Simple Soft Shell Crabs
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Soft shell crabs briefly cooked in the tiniest bit of olive oil look unreasonably fancy for a quick lunch. But serve two of these honorable creatures over a bed of naked greens with a squeeze of lemon, and the whole brilliant bowlful might just start to look like the most reasonable 250 calories you’ve ever seen.
Soft shell crab season is short and sweet. Don’t miss this fleeting moment when crabs have just molted and their new shells are soft enough to eat.
Soft shell crab season
Soft shell crab season will be over in a flash, and although I’m all about transitioning into fall with grace, I can’t let these beauties go without a little send-off party. At this party, we’ll have some wine and some low, slow jazz playing under the din of voices.
You’ll have a great time catching up with a few friends you haven’t seen in too long. I’ll stop briefly in front of a mirror to check whether I have True Blood teeth and get introvert-lost wondering whether my preference for eating intact sea creatures (lobsters, soft shells) gives me more integrity than burger eaters.
Don’t worry, I won’t talk to you or anyone about it ever.
What are soft shell crabs?
Soft shells are not a different variety of crab but rather creatures of a moment in time. These crabs have recently molted, and their new shells are still so soft as to be edible.
In other words, what you see here is some crabs going through a phase where they’re more vulnerable than usual.
If only humans could identify with that at all.
How to eat soft shell crab
I’ve celebrated soft shell crabs here before, at a more appropriate time of year. In the past I’ve tended to prepare these guys with a little more complexity: soaked in milk, dredged in flour, sautéed in a more generous glug of oil.
But speaking of vulnerabilities, I’m trying to keep meals a little lighter for the next few months to do some molting of my own. (I’m a big fan of Amy Schumer, Mindy Kaling, and the increasing visibility of the body-positive movement, but I think they’ve been enabling my not-so-positive salty snacks habit. Even soft shell crabs have been called “the gourmet potato chips of the seafood world,” but hey.)
When I’m eating a little less, it’s extra important that each bite be magnificent, so sometimes lunch gets a little fancy. Soft shells pack a lot of magic into a mere 100 calories, and I was delighted to discover that this crazy-simple cooking method puts their natural savoriness front and center.
I’ll leave you with that good news. Enjoy the weekend, stay dry if you’re on the east coast, and thank you for definitely never mentioning my crustacean superiority complex again.
- 4 cleaned soft shell crabs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sprinkle of fine sea salt
- In a heavy, wide skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sprinkle a little bit of salt around the bottom of the pan.
- Place the crabs into the pan in a single layer, shell side down. Cook undisturbed for about five minutes, until the underside is crispy and red with a few browned spots
- Flip crabs and cook on the other side until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve immediately or pack for lunch.