Soft-shell crabs are truly a delicacy—not just for their incredible flavor and uniqueness among all foods, but because they are only available for a couple months out of the year. Click here to read all about the science, seasonality and sourcing of soft-shell crabs in the Alabama Seafood Field Guide.
Whether it’s on the stove or in the backyard fryer, start by getting your oil good and hot, to the tune of 350-375, with 360 being the sweet spot. It’s a real pain to have to wait on something to heat up once you’ve begun the prep process, especially if you’re cooking while hungry. And if you’ve got fried soft-shell crab on the menu, then your salivary glands are surely in high gear at this point.
Just like in the Field Guide instructions, rinse the crabs and pat dry. Because you’re about to fry up the whole crab, there’s a little maintenance that needs to be done. While every part of the crab is edible, there are a couple that can distract from the overall flavor of the dish. The eyes have a tendency to taste bitter, so simply take a pair of kitchen shears and remove them with a couple snips. Next, the “apron” (the Washington Monument-shaped central piece on the underside of the crab) is easily removed with your fingers and shears. Then go after the spongy gills located just underneath the shell on either side. Peel back the shell with your fingers and scrape out the gills with a finger. Now you’re all set.
Combine the egg and milk in a shallow bowl and beat well. And since it’s now time for the batter, it’s important to know your options. Fry enthusiasts argue vehemently over what constitutes the perfect fry meal, but there’s no culinary consensus between the divergent schools of thought for corn meal or straight up flour. This recipe calls for a classic all-purpose flour fry, but an equal blend of corn meal, corn flour and all-purpose flour is equally as good. It’s a great compromise that keeps all parties happy, and for a Southerner, that’s often the proper and genteel thing to do. Either way, mix the flour and Cajun seasoning in a shallow bowl. Any Cajun or Creole seasoning blend will do, but as Alabamians, it’s hard not to recommend Southern Flavor’s Cajun (Hot) Seasoning.
Dip each crab in the egg mixture, making sure you soak it thoroughly and drain off the excess. Gently dredge the crabs in the seasoned flour mixture until they are thoroughly coated but not clumpy or caked.
And since you got your oil good and hot earlier, now you can gently slip the crabs into the oil, making sure you don’t create a splash and send searing hot oil all over the place. Fry each crab for 3 minutes on each side or until it’s crispy golden brown and cooked through.
This can be served in a variety of ways, but since it’s a good, classic and fried Southern dish, there’s nothing wrong with serving it on newspaper and with an ice-cold beer. And if you’re looking for a recommendation, some of Alabama’s finest local breweries make an excellent choice, like Good People’s IPA, Naked Pig Pale Ale from Back Forty or Spring Street Saison from Avondale Brewing Co.
And then there’s the Rémoulade.
Somewhere between tartar sauce and Thousand Island dressing, Rémoulade sauce is a French condiment that’s used on everything from beef to seafood, and found everywhere from five-star restaurants to down-home fish shacks. This particular style is more of a working man’s variety that’s anything but pedestrian.
And this one is super easy to make. All you do is combine all ingredients in a bowl (or blender before you add the capers) and mix together. And since nobody’s taste thermometer is the same, feel free to adjust the seasonings (especially the hot sauce) to taste.
You can either drizzle the Rémoulade sauce over the top of each soft-shell crab or use it just like tartar sauce or ketchup. Your call. Just do us this one favor: click here to find out when and where you can find soft-shell crab near you and share this recipe with someone you know that would love it too.