I found these gems at a local seafood market just down the street from my new home, called The Fisherman's Dock. They were still alive and wiggling when I bought them, so I knew they'd be fresh, which I really think is the key with seafood. The fishmongers were kind enough to clean them for me, so I don't know that process, but hey, they were delicious, and VERY easy to make. We ate these bad boys by themselves, but I could easily see making a delicious po boy with them, or serving them up with some paella.
Total Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Cook Time: 15 minutes
What you will need:
Softshell crabs, cleaned and gilled (get the fishmonger to do this for you), the fresher the better
3 tbsps of plain flour
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Old Bay seasoning, to taste
Grapeseed or Canola oil, some oil that you can use for panfrying that has a high smoke point. Expect to fill a non-stick pan about 3/4 of an inch full of oil.
First you will set up your "assembly line." There should be one plate with the breadcrumbs and some old bay mixed together, a bowl with the egg gently beaten, and the crabs, sitting next to a small glass bowl with the flour and a bit of old bay mixed together in the bowl.
Rinse your crabs and pat them dry with paper towels. The drier they are, the easier it is to get the coatings to stick. Then, in a small glass bowl, mix your flour with old bay seasoning. It's as much as you want to taste; some people really like the flavor and others only want a hint of it. Mix it together with your fingers in your small glass bowl.
Next, you will dust your crabs on both sides with the flour mixture.
After you get them dusted with the flour mixture, dip them in an egg bath. They don't need to be soaked, just lightly bathed in the egg mixture both back and front. Make sure all the legs get some egg on there, too.
Next, transfer them to the breadcrumb plate. Again, the breadcrumbs should be mixed with old bay, to taste. You're going to taste more of the seasoning in this stage, so keep it in mind when adding seasoning. You can also add some cayenne pepper or cajun seasoning here, if you'd like to alter your flavor profile.
Next, in a non-stick skillet, heat approximately 3/4" of oil to a high temperature. The oil will shimmer, and you want to stop it from overheating and smoking. Keep an eye on it. The way that I figure out whether it's hot enough is by taking a small bit of breadcrumbs held together by leftover egg wash and throwing it in the oil to hear whether it's "sizzlin hot." If it's not sizzling, then it's not ready.
Once it's ready, lay your crabs down with their legs spread. Now there's a sentence you wouldn't expect to read in a cooking blog.
I know the temptation is great to keep flipping them and checking them out. You have to trust that they are cooking and leave them relatively undisturbed, approximately 4 minutes on the first side. Then, flip them and they should look like this:
Cook for another four minutes or so, then flip one last time to make sure they are cooked evenly on both sides. Then remove to a paper-towel lined plate.
Let them drain and cool for a minute or two, then serve and enjoy!!!