This is going to sound super bougie, but since moving to Philadelphia a year ago, I’ve developed a habit: soft shell crab. I know it’s no Baltimore, but I’m technically two hours closer (having moved from New York) — and just about an hour or so away. From June through early fall, the crabs I can pick up at my local fish store (John Yi Market at Reading Terminal) are divine. They’re also, for soft shell crabs, relatively cheap. $5.99 per crab. For the two of us, Noah and I, it comes out to a reasonable $24 feast.
I’ve experimented with a number of different recipes, some healthy, some less so. In the end, to balance the flavor, I’ve learned that butter is a necessary (and delicious) evil. That a little garlic goes a long way. And that a bit of spice never hurts.
If you’re looking for a simple recipe for soft shell crabs this summer, that doesn’t require too many ingredients or too much time, check this one out.
What You Need
4 soft shell crabs. Ask for them to be pre-cleaned so that you have less to do at home; most fish stores should do this happily.
Crushed red pepper
Aleppo pepper (a Mediterranean spice)
Milk (I used skim, though most chefs would probably tell you to use whole or buttermilk)
Extra virgin olive oil
Butter (I use salted for everything)
How to Do It
1. Create your flour mixture. In a medium size bowl, combine your flour with: 3 pinches of kosher salt, 1 tsp of black pepper, 1 tsp of garlic powder, 1 tsp of paprika, and 2-3 shakes of crushed red pepper and aleppo pepper.
2. In a separate small bowl, whisk your egg with about 2 tablespoons of milk.
3. In another small bowl, add your panko.
4. Set up your bowls on the counter like this: 1. flour mixture, 2. egg mixture, 3. panko. This will make it easier to coat your crabs.
4. Lightly salt and pepper your soft shell crabs, front and back.
5. On the stove, add a small amount of extra virgin olive oil to your pan and heat on a medium flame.
6. While your pan heats up, start your assembly line of crab. First, dip your pre-salt and peppered crab in egg (the middle bowl). Transfer to your flour bowl (to the left). Coat generously. Back to your egg bowl (in the middle). And finally, cover in panko. This first crab is ready for the pan. Position your crab top down, and set a timer for 4 minutes. Start again, and repeat four times.
7. Each crab should be cooked for about 4 minutes on the first side, adding a little butter for moisture (and flavor) about halfway in. Cook for 3 minutes on the second side, with a little more butter.
8. Tip: If you set a timer for 4 minutes after adding your first crab, try to spend no more than 1 minute dipping each subsequent crab. This way, you can easily add and flip your crabs at 1-minute intervals, which simply makes it easier for timing purposes.
9. That’s it! Once you have your crabs in a bowl, squeeze fresh lemon over it all, and serve with extra lemon slices.
Shell fish game strong! What’s your favorite recipe for enjoying summer seafood?