cornmeal-crusted fried soft-shell crabs


There are days I’m productive. Things get crossed off the list, I feel a sense of real accomplishment. I even high-five myself. In my head. Other days, I stare at my cuticles trying to remember when was the last time I had a proper manicure. “The hangnails,” I think, “are preposterous. I mean, just look at them! Look!” Those days I feel like I barely move the needle. It would seem that I am deep at work, but then I raise my head and realize I’ve typed a page. Edited one recipe. This is not an exercise in productivity, it’s just wastefulness.

On the other hand, I think, I’ve noticed that the blooms have fallen off the tree across the street and it’s now heavy with leaves. And now that it’s raining, the leaves are all wet and the tree is bending down even lower. That should count for something, right? Observing the small quotidian things. Taking pleasure in the everydayness of it all.

heating the oil

We’re off to Massachusetts this evening. Come tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, we’ll have our marriage license, but we still won’t be married – we’ll need a rabbi to make it official. So I’m calling it half-married. For a month I get to refer to Andrew as my half-husband.

And there’s also my bridal shower, which my cousin, Matron of Honor, is throwing,; where I suspect many a mimosa will be consumed on my behalf, or at least, that will be the excuse. As if one needs a reason to have a bubbly drink on a Saturday afternoon. At my surprise shower in New York, there were bottomless mimosas, and when I say bottomless, the neighboring tables felt like we got a little too loud. I’d say I felt sorry, but weddings (and things leading up to them) should be raucous, boisterous, joyous affairs. Who wants dainty ladies sipping tea and eating crumpets in the quiet of it all? No, I want pulled pork sliders, and thick-cut house-smoked bacon, and stuffed French toast, thank you very much. And noise – I want a lot of noise. So I hope that the aunts, and cousins, and friends can deliver on the noise part come Saturday.

With any luck, I’ll steal some early morning hours to continue to make a dent in my work. Freelancing – man, it’s just a non-stop thing. Weekends are for the birds! I hardly ever know what day of the week it truly is. Yesterday, for example, felt like a Friday to me. Today, on the other hand, feels like a Monday. And there’s always so much to do before you leave on a trip. No matter how small – there are things to be done. There’s the matter of arranging care for your line-backer cat to be fed and played with in your absence. There’s the matter of making sure that when you return to your home, the refrigerator doesn’t house something fearsome and alive. There’s the fear that no matter how organized I am, I’ll forget something important: a charger, a notebook, underwear.

fried and delicious... and ready to attack?

And while I should be packing and working, what am I doing? Writing this! When it’s matter of soft-shell crabs, I think one must strike while the iron is hot. Soft-shell crabs are nothing more than crabs that have recently molted their outer shell and the shell that’s underneath is paper-thin, soft, and delicious when fried. It’s naked crab. Or, since I just brought up underwear, it’s crab wearing underwear. That’s perfectly edible. (Man, the searches that will bring readers to this post! Ha.)

Soft-shell crabs are in season until about September (and some might even say October or November), which makes them the perfect weeknight meal, lazy Sunday dinner, weekend cookout superstar. They are a cinch to put together, and fry in minutes. And while they fry, you can pop open some beer and ready a couple of lemon wedges. You might also want to set aside some napkins and maybe even a bib – this is messy, drippy eating, but eating that will leave you deliriously happy and ready for summer.

Cornmeal-Crusted Fried Soft-Shell Crabs

6 soft-shell crabs, cleaned
1 quart buttermilk
48 ounces peanut oil
1 cup fine cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Soak the crabs in buttermilk. Add the oil to a 5-quart Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat until the temperature registers 375 degrees F on a deep-frying thermometer.

2. In a medium, shallow bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, cayenne, mustard powder, salt and the pepper.

3. Remove the crabs from the buttermilk, letting the excess drip off, and dredge each crab in the cornmeal-flour mixture. Gently lower the crabs into the oil (stand back as the oil may sputter; you may need to do this in 2 batches), and cook the crabs for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the crab coating is golden brown and crispy. Transfer the crabs to a paper-towel lined plate, season with more salt, and serve alongside lemon wedges.

Serves 2 for dinner, or 6 as a starter.


  • Brian

    Ha! Amazing! I haven’t had soft shell crabs in years but my FIL just told me he loves them. Will have to pass this along.

  • Erin

    1. Being productive is hard sometimes. And I always feel so frustrated with myself when my time just slips away from me.
    2. Cooking crabs seems a bit intimidating to me, but these look great and totally doable!

  • Cara

    Those look really good. Like really, really, really good. I usually end up pan-frying mine to avoid splatters/mess, but maybe this year I deep fry.

    Out of curiosity, do you save your frying oil? 48 ounces is a lot to waste.

  • Radish

    Lisa – thank you :) hee.

    Cara – I don’t because after frying 6 crabs the oil looks narsty. I do, however, pour it back into the original bottle and dispose. If i was frying something the following day, I’d reuse the oil for sure. But usually, once we fry something we do it pretty seriously. I think that pan frying works great too!

  • Megan

    You gave me a good chuckle this morning! Somehow my being burried in work hasn’t involved seafood yet. But I’m hoping to change that soon…

  • Marissa

    I love this line – “And while I should be packing and working, what am I doing? Writing this!” – I totally relate…. + It’s 10am and I WISH I could have that crab for lunch, looks just delicious. Congrats on your half-marraige. ;)

  • kickpleat

    Congrats on the half-married :) I know all about the freelance lifestyle (holidays? weekends? Mondays? Ha!) No matter, these look delicious – I’ve never had a soft shell crab and it looks incredible.

  • Benita

    I’ve been a fan of your blog for a long time and don’t normally comment, but I have to speak up about the eating of soft shell crabs. You are correct in saying that soft shell crabs are those that have recently molted. However, after a crab molts is the only time it can mate. Catching and eating soft shell crabs reduces the population exponentially since it’s taking a adult of mating age out of the population. Taking out a crab out of the population that isn’t at its mating prime is one thing, but taking out a crab out during one of the rare times it can mate and maintain the population is very worrying. I feel this is an issue that more people should be aware of. I am, of course, referring to wild caught soft shell crabs which are rarer than commercially raised crabs which are watched closely for signs of molting and then removed.

  • Radish

    Benita – you raise an excellent point of sustainability and yes, what you wrote above, is correct. I agree – it is important to find out from your fishmonger if the crab you’re purchasing has been raised sustainably. Thank you for bringing it up!

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