Soft-shell crabs

In 3-Wilhelmina (Bee) Garris King 1918-2007 on June 27, 2009 at 5:07 pm

crabs in flour june 2006

crabs in frying pan aerial view june 2006

crabs in frying pan june 2006

(Editor’s note: All these photos are from June 2006, when I spent a week with Grandma at McCarthy Court in June 2006 and she set about making what she always called my favorite dish. The only problem is that I don’t have a written recipe! It can’t be too hard … dust the crabs in flour, then fry them in hot oil. But all hands on deck! Add your crab crib notes below.)

  1. Actually, Momma used corn meal (like for hush puppies) more often than flour when cooking crab. About it being your favorite dish, I remember the time Carey first had steamed king crab at Golden Corral. She first tried a couple of legs just to see if she liked it. As she ate, she became zoned out – concentrating only on the taste/texture – oblivious to the rest of us, and the rest of her food. When she ran out, her hands began to shake as she raced back to the buffet, and came back with a plate piled high with king crab legs, which she consumed with gusto until replete. Beyond that, Momma slipped Carey a deep fried soft-shell crab one time, which she proceeded to inhale – encouraging Momma to “keep ’em coming”.

  2. Crab are best eaten very fresh. So once when I was a middle-teen, Momma was cleaning live crab in a 20 gallon foot tub on the back porch at 1806 Tryon Road. I won’t go into too much detail, but there is only one place to grab a live crab that it can’t bite back. Momma was doing pretty well until she missed the “safe” zone by just a little – enough for the crab to grab her finger. I was in the back yard mowing and heard her yell. I ran over and squeezed the crab’s claw from the side, forcing it open pretty much like you force a dog’s mouth open to feed it a pill. Having successfully performed the crabectomy, I helped her clean the rest of the crab, then went back to mowing. That night Momma fixed some of the best deviled crab we’d ever had.

  3. I know Grandma loved softshelled crabs. When ever I passed them by, she would always tell me “Well, Carey likes these”.

  4. When Tom and I were on Tangier Island, a little place in the Chesapeake Bay, they had a crab prison where they kept crabs near molting. When the crab sheds its shell (so it can grow), it become more expensive.

  5. The picture that Carey has of the softshelled crabs frying has a bag of white corn meal in it… so I assume that is what Momma rolled them in.

  6. Y’all — I realized only AFTER I put this post up that the photo actually INCLUDES the bag of cornmeal in it. The only question now (check the photo) is: Do pitted prunes belong somewhere in the recipe? 🙂

  7. One more thing. Can you guys walk me through what happens right after you buy the crabs from the fish market? Do you buy soft-shell crabs while they’re still alive? How do you clean them? Is the process any different from crabs with hard shells?

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