Friday, June 7, 2013

Cleaning Soft Shell Crabs

Where to Start
I was recently talking to a seafood novice about soft shell crabs - about how wonderful they are and how easy they are to cook, "just fry 'em up" was their motto - and a question came up whose answer I had always taken for granted.  They asked me after some thought, "well, how do you actually clean them?"  Working with crabs for over 10 years, I have put in many hours of 'cleaning' soft shells that it never occurred to me that it wasn't so commonplace outside the seafood world.

Some seafood markets will clean the soft shells for you, BlackSalt always offers it's guests the option for no extra charge, and what you get when this happens is a prepped soft shell crab missing a few parts and ready for the pan.  Now, if you are a do-it-yourself type and want to learn how to clean soft shells, here's a quick how-to that will allow you to purchase soft shells live and clean them at home.

 


Take off the eyes and mouth
First thing you are going to need is a pair of scissors.  Place the soft shell in your hand upright.  Cut off the face with a thin snip being sure not to take off too much.  You just want to take the eyes and mouth off.  Take the tips of the scissors and puncture the bubble that appears in the hole that is left from the cut you just made.  You want to puncture this bubble so it does not burst when you are cooking, sending an undesirable splatter in your pan.  Next, you want to lift the carapace at the points on either side.  Underneath you will find what many call the 'dead fins'.  These could potentially cause you trouble if ingested, they are not tasty, so they must be removed from both sides of the crab.  Holding the scissors flat against the body, trim the translucent looking fins.  They will resemble translucent feathers and rest on top of the body - desirable meat - of the crab.  They are located under the points of the crab, which jut out on either side.  Finally, flip your crab over and cut off the apron flap.  This will either be shaped like a broad triangle (female) or a golf tee (male).  Pull the flap up from the body and snip it off.

Burst the bubble
That's it, your crab is ready to be seasoned and cooked.  It's really not a difficult process and only takes a few seconds.  The incredible thing is that most of the crab is usable and there is little waste.  The next time you are shopping for softies, try taking them home and holding your own tutorial with your guests.  It will add a little excitement to your party and put you all a little closer to your food.  I find food always taste better the more you know about it and the more you actually handle it.  


Remove the 'dead fins'

Take off the apron









Ready to cook!

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