Soft-shelled crab fit for a coronation
By Charles W. Waring III
A properly cooked soft-shell crab is rare, but we gar-un-tee the Cajun version is rather epic and would meet or exceed any cuisine prepared for King Charles III’s coronation. Count on serving at least two per person or three for those with good appetites. Get all your parts together — mise en place — and have an assistant close by, especially if you are feeding more than just a foursome.
Buy cleaned crabs or be sure to clean them in your kitchen. When cleaning them, it’s important to rinse the crabs under cold water; then take sharp shears and cut about a half-inch behind the mouth and eyes; squeeze out the “funk.” Rinse again. Cut off the feathery gills under the top shell. Next, go to the underside and pull off the apron and toss. You are ready to cook.
Plan for one-half a lemon for each crab; a spoonful of capers on top of each crab (last touch); plenty of olive oil and butter in which to sauté crabs. Have Old Bay, Cajun seasoning and freshly ground pepper handy; have a cup of flour in a bowl for dredging ahead of the sauté process. Acquire a large skillet. The biggest Smithy is just right (buy one at the Preservation Society’s gift shop).
Take the cleaned crabs and place them on a large ceramic tray or two plates and hit them hard with lemon juice. Use about a quarter of a lemon per crab. Flip them and flip them again until each crab is covered in lemon juice. Let them marinate for ten minutes while you go and build a drink. Get your olive oil and butter going (minimum of three tablespoons of each to start; be prepared to add more as needed) and turn to low-medium heat and then begin dredging the crabs in the flour. Place them top shell down. Be sure your flour is seasoned to taste with the spices noted above. The cooking process loses a lot of spice, so you want to avoid being wimpy in the application of your Cajun, Old Bay and freshly ground pepper.
Cook for five minutes or until they turn a bit brown, then flip them with tongs and add more butter and olive oil before hitting them with a light touch of lemon. Cook until the bottoms are a and then turn off the heat. Cover the crabs and let them rest for another ten minutes, then lightly dust with Cajun spice and then pour a tablespoon of sauce from the skillet and a tablespoon of capers on top of each crab. Serve on a bed of Carolina Gold rice with a few spears of asparagus and a wedge of lemon on the side of each plate. Pair with a crisp white such as Pouilly Fuissé or Muscadet. Feast well and toast the new monarch — or not. Either way, be sure to enjoy one of the finest treats available to denizens of coastal Carolina.