Crispy Eastern Shore Soft-Shell Crabs 6.000

James M. Thresher for The Washington Post

May 27, 2009

Cutting each crab into six pieces creates portions that have "handles" and are sized just right for dipping into a creamy chive-and-anchovy sauce.

Servings: 6 appetizer servings
  • For the sauce
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon (at least 1 tablespoon), plus more as needed
  • 7 or 8 chive stems, minced (1 tablespoon)
  • 1 anchovy fillet, minced, plus more as needed
  • For the crab
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 6 medium soft-shell crabs, cleaned (see NOTE)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


For the dipping sauce: Combine the creme fraiche, mayonnaise, lemon zest, chives and anchovy in a medium bowl; stir to mix well. Taste and add lemon zest or anchovy as needed.

For the crab: Pour enough oil into a large, deep saute pan or skillet so that it measures at least 3 inches deep. Heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels.

Meanwhile, lay the cleaned soft-shell crabs on a cutting board. Use a small, sharp knife to cut each crab in half (down the center), then cut each half-crab into thirds, which will create bite-size pieces (6 total for each crab) that include a claw or legs or back fin.

Place the milk in a wide, shallow bowl. Combine the flour and Old Bay seasoning in a separate wide, shallow dish; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Dip the crab pieces into the milk and then into the seasoned flour, being sure the pieces are evenly coated. Working in batches, carefully add to the hot oil (they will sputter and pop on contact); fry for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until lightly browned, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Season lightly with salt and pepper, if desired. Repeat to use all the crab pieces.

When ready to serve, place the crispy crab pieces on a platter with a small bowl of the dipping sauce. Serve warm.

NOTE: You can ask the fishmonger to clean the soft-shell crab, or do it yourself by laying the crab on a cutting board, belly side up. Pull off the flap called the apron. Next, turn it over and use kitchen scissors to snip off the front of the crab (eyes and mouth), to about a half-inch behind the eyes. Then lift the pointed end of the crab's outer shell and remove and discard the gills. Rinse the crab and pat dry.

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Recipe Source

From Todd Gray, chef-owner of Equinox restaurant in Washington.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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