It would be redundant to say the seafood in Hampton Roads is exceptional. It is all good, but during the summer months (April through September) locals take great pleasure in eating soft shell crabs. These seasonal favorites are simply blue crabs which have recently molted their old shell (exoskeleton) and are still soft. They are a delicacy because after shedding the hard shell, the new armor starts to toughen up within a few hours. Fishermen generally harvest the crabs as they normally would, holding them live in shedding tanks until they naturally puff up and drop their old shells.
blue-crabs.jpgSoft shell crabs are best eaten fresh. Most people prefer to eat them fried and usually as a sandwich. Boiling or steaming them usually makes them fall apart.
To the uninitiated, the presentation may be a little off-putting. The entire crab – golden and flaky – arrives at your table. That’s the crab, all eight legs and two claws. The only parts removed are generally the eyes and lungs.
So what do you need to know about soft shell crabs? A serving usually consists of two crabs. All the parts should be attached when served. They are best when freshly harvested. They easily can be cooked at home dredged in flour and Old Bay; sautéed about 3 minutes per side. Check out restaurants that treat them as specials, not on the printed menu.