Your fishmonger can clean (or dress) these molted blue crabs, a spring delicacy in the mid-Atlantic region, but doing it yourself is easy. Use kitchen shears to cut off the face and eyes and remove the apron (the pointed flap on the crab's underside). Then lift up the flaps of the top shell on each side and pull off the feathery gills with your fingers. Everything remaining is edible.
Make Ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated a day or two in advance. The crabs can be cleaned and refrigerated for up to a day, but grilling them on the same day is best.
- 13 (about 3 ounces each) soft-shell crabs, preferably primes, cleaned (see headnote)
- 1 cup clam juice, fish stock or chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 ounce cured chorizo sausage, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (3 tablespoons)
- Chopped chives or whole leaves of microgreens, for garnish (optional)
Cut one soft-shell crab into 4 equal-size pieces and place in a large saucepan. Add the clam juice, stock or broth, cream, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, Old Bay and paprika. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring once, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, to form a slightly thickened sauce that has deepened in color.
Discard the thyme and bay leaf. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender; remove the center knob from the lid and place a dish towel over the opening so that steam can escape. Puree for 30 seconds, then strain the sauce into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the diced chorizo and stir to combine. There should be 1 1/2 cups of sauce. Cover and keep warm while you grill the crabs.
Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 4 to 5 seconds.
Spray the remaining 12 crabs lightly on both sides with nonstick cooking oil spray. Place them top sides down on the grill and cook for 3 minutes or until the crabs are a dark brick red and have a slight char on them. Turn the crabs over and cook for 3 minutes. The crabs are done when there are no traces of blue left on the pincers.
Place about 2 1/2 tablespoons of warm chorizo sauce on each plate (there will be some sauce left over), then top with 2 crabs per portion.
Garnish with chopped chives or a few microgreens, if desired.
From Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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