The first time I had soft-shell crab was in the summer of 1978. I was running the Perkins 'Cake & Steak account at the time and I had traveled to the Jersey Shore to meet with a franchisee out there. Besides the seven Perkins stores he owned, he also owned a high-end supper club. We were having dinner there and he insisted I try their specialty, soft-shell blue crab. Well, I tried it and instantly fell in love with the dish.
Soft-shell crab season runs from April through September. During this period, blue crabs lose their shells. They are harvested immediately, before they can grow a new shell. This means the entire body is edible. While a lot of stores offer them frozen, I much prefer mine fresh. Whole Foods is my choice for fresh soft-shell crabs.
And I like to prepare them just like I had it that first time on the Jersey shore. The crabs are charred under a broiler and then served on toast. The toast acts like a sponge for the delicious crab juices and heightens the crunch. This is Melissa Clark's recipe, however, I usually skip the sauce and just squeeze lemon over the crab toasts.
6 cups packed Italian parsley
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 slices of country-style bread
1 large garlic clove, halved and peeled
6, 3-ounce soft shelled crabs
- In a blender, combine parsley, jalapeño, lemon juice and salt. Add oil and 3 tablespoons water. Purée until sauce is smooth, adding additional water if needed, a tablespoon at a time, until you have a thick yet pourable sauce. Transfer sauce to a bowl and add more salt or lemon juice, or both, if needed.
- Heat broiler. Place bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil, turning once, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Rub toast with cut garlic. Drizzle with oil or slather with butter, remove from pan and set aside.
- Lightly coat crabs with oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer, belly side up, to a large baking sheet (you can use the same one you used for the toast). Broil, turning once, until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes per side.
- Place one crab on top of each toast. Spoon a generous amount of sauce over each crab and serve with lemon wedges on the side.