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soft-shells

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I'm looking to find some decent soft-shell crabs in
Manhattan, but I don't want to pay the $25 they were
charging at City Crab (yes, I know it's a hideous,
T.G.I.F.-esque abomination, but I was desparate). Help.

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  1. Are you desperate enough to cook them yourself? For
    $25 you could do quite well in Chinatown and probably
    pretty well at a place like Citarella. Let me know if
    you want to know how to cook 'em.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Pat Hammond

      Please let me know how to cook my number one all time favorite thing in the world. I had my first of 1988 at March last weekend and they were exquisitely fresh and alas, disappeared way too quickly (what doesn't at that place?)
      Also, any tips on how to have the crabs withstand a trip from Citarella to Margaretville, so that they still taste almost as fresh as when they were plucked from their beds...
      E.

      1. re: E. Cornell

        First of all the crabs have to be alive when you buy them. If you have the fish store clean them, the chances of their deterioration is much higher if you're going to be transporting them without refrigeration. Any fish store will pack you fish in ice for you, so that will take care of getting them home.

        As far as cooking is concerned, one of the best I've ever eaten were at the NY Noodle House in Chinatown. They cook them in a salt shell so that when you get them, they're crispy, JUICY and very tender. They should be sweet now--this is prime season.

        If you want to cook them yourself, I'd suggest having them cleaned, dusting them in seasoned (salt and pepper) flour and then a dip into a Tempura batter. The prepared mixes are wonderful and can be obtained in almost any Oriental market. Heat the oil to about 375 degrees. Mix the tempura batter, dip the whole soft shell crab into the batter, let it drip off and slip the craf, legs first, into the hot oil. When the crab looks lightly golden brown, turn it over and cook to golden brown on the other side. Remove, drain well and eat!!

        Susan

        1. re: E. Cornell

          I'll certainly defer to Susan for deep fried soft
          shells. It sounds devine.

          My favorite way to cook and eat them is more of a
          saute. Dust the cleaned crabs with a well seasoned
          flour mix (I like cayenne in mine). Let rest in the
          fridge for a half hour or so. Heat a saute pan and
          then add half butter, half Canola oil or
          whichever mild oil you like, place crabs shell side
          down in hot oiled pan and saute on that side until
          golden and then turn crabs over and cook their
          underside. They'll be crispy but crabby. Serve with
          chopped parsley on top, lemon to squeeze over and
          tartar sauce, if you like it.

          They should keep just fine on your way home if they
          have ice in the bag. Be sure your fish monger puts the
          crabs in one plastic bag and the ice in another.

          1. re: pat hammond
            j
            jonathan gold

            I've always been deterred from frying my own
            soft-shells by the horrifying instruction in
            the old Joy of Cooking: ``Place live crab
            face-down on a cutting board. Using a sharp
            knife, cut off its face.''

            Restaurant food, I tell you. Restaurant food.

        2. re: Pat Hammond

          Thanks
          I know how to cook them, but I'm being taken out by a
          visiting relative and was trying to figure out how to,
          um, take full advantage of the situation and get some
          decent soft-shells outside of my kitchen. Recent
          austerity measures have limited my dining out
          options,so I thought I'd make the best of the visit.
          -sd

          1. re: SDesimon
            j
            jonathan gold

            It's not precisely what you have in mind, but
            An American Place had just spectacular soft-
            shells this week, simply fried, garnished with
            a few Carolina rock shrimp. Plus, you get an
            excuse to eat their strawberry shortcake, which
            is the best anywhere. (It's a still a little
            early in the season--most places are serving
            teensy softshell crabs right about now.)

            Michael's makes a point of having
            great soft-shells too, as well as all-but
            -unfindable shad roe.

            What is the point of visiting relatives, after
            all, if not to exercise their American Express
            cards a little on your behalf? Hell, I bet Le
            Bernadin has good soft-shelled crabs too . . .

            1. re: jonathan gold

              Two suggestions re: soft shell crabs: 1) New York
              Noodletown, on the Bowery just south of Canal and
              2) Elias' Corner in Astoria, Queens. Both places serve
              delicious, though differently prepared, and inexpensive
              soft shell crabs. Also, check Savoy in Soho for more
              expensive and more delicious crabs.