"Ask me what seafood I like best, and I’ll tell you I love it all,” says Joe Gurrera, master fishmonger and author of the cookbook Joe Knows Fish: Taking the Intimidation Out of Cooking Seafood “Press me for an answer, and I’ll admit that one of my favorites is soft-shell crabs.”
Available from early March through September, these little beauties are succulent, decadent and, if you would believe it, not all that hard to prepare. You just have to know what you’re doing—and source the freshest ingredients.
Luckily, Gurrera also runs Citarella, a company that specializes in catching, caring for and delivering the freshest seasonal seafood to hungry cooks around the country.
“Crabs are caught in a pot, then put into open saltwater tanks, where they can be observed as they shed their shells,” he says. “This is a time-sensitive process. They have people watching ’round the clock, because the crabs shed at all times and have to be pulled from the water shortly thereafter. If not, they become a hard-shell crab.”
Today, Gurrera shares with us his sure-fire recipe for stand-out soft shell crab.
“Lightly sautéed, they turn golden and sweet, and the briny meat stays juicy,” he says. “What could be better? The key [is to not] overcook the crab. The goal is to get the soft-shell exterior nice and crispy while keeping the meat plump and tender—and yes, you eat the whole thing!"
Ready to enjoy the best seafood the northeastern United States has to offer? Don’t just take Gurrera’s word for it. Try this soft-shell crab recipe today.
- 4 whole, live soft-shell crabs, cleaned
- ½ cup Wondra flour or all-purpose flour
- About ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pro tip: Ask your fishmonger for whole, live, cleaned soft-shell crabs, which should be cooked within 24 to 48 hours—and ideally sooner.
- Rinse the crabs with cold water, and pat them dry with paper towel.
- Dust the crabs with flour by sprinkling a light layer onto each side and shaking off any excess.
- Pour a very thin layer of olive oil into a large shallow skillet and heat over medium heat until it starts to shimmer.
- Sauté the crabs for 1½ to 2 minutes per side.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately.
Visit Citarella to order soft-shell crab and more fresh seafood from Gurrera's company, and read his cookbook Joe Knows Fish: Taking the Intimidation Out of Cooking Seafood for more recipes.