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Soft Shell Lobsters [split thread]

That's right--soft shell crabs are shedders, same as soft shell lobsters. Although I wouldn't try frying up the lobsters as you would with the crabs!

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  1. About 30 years ago I was in City Island, NY (part of the Bronx) and wanted to eat at the Sea Shore Restaurant. Unfortunately they had a 2 hour wait for a table, so we drove to the end of the road where there is a large window service seafood joint right on the water with a large parking lot. Looking at the menu we spotted 'Fried Lobster' we asked and were told that they dreged the soft-shell lobsters in seasoned flour and fried them in basket like French Froed Potatoes. Intrigued, we ordered one. It came in a paper fry boat, the lobster had been cut into 6 pieces. The tail and claws could be eaten without removing theshell, The claws were too dangerous to eat.

    10 Replies
    1. re: bagelman01

      What do you mean the "claws were too dangerous to eat'?

      1. re: mucho gordo

        by just chomping and eating the shells. The tail and claws were the new soft shell that develops soon after molting. The claws aren't molted. So the claws had to be picked and sucked.

        1. re: bagelman01

          Interesting. I don't think I knew that about lobsters.

      2. re: bagelman01

        Alright, I still can't quite get my head around this one. Over the years, I have cooked, cleaned, eaten, and even pulled from the trap, many, many dozens of soft shell lobsters. I'd say in the past three-four years my wife and I alone, not counting those I've prepped for others, have eaten close to fifty of the bugs.* In that time, I have never come across a tail soft enough to try and deep fry and eat like a crab. Honestly, I'm fascinated.

        My understanding has always been that lobsters shells harden much more quickly than those on crabs (which explains the claw thing you experienced). Moreover, when I have caught soft crabs, it has always been on the surface - a very short time after they had shed. The lobsters I've had have always been from traps, which usually means they have been in there for a while.

        Now, I have deep fried soft shell lobster. My technique is a two to four minute steam,** water bath, then cut 'em open and batter the meat. Not unlike a tempura, but I've tried a beer batter too. At bottom, however, I want to try to have a lobster tail so soft I can dredge it and fry it. I'll have to put it on the bucket list . . . .

        *In fairness, we often have been able to get them for $2.99 a pound, so it would have been wrong not to overindulge. Not to mention the occasional lobster "return the favor"'s I have been lucky enough to receive. (As a semi-retired (now "country") lawyer who doesn't ordinarily charge "friends and family" for "helping them out", I've gotten a few wonderful repayments. It's a story for another day, but there was once a doorbell ring where I was greeted with a forty pound striper)

        **It's easier with hard shells who only need a quick bath in boiling water to perish.

        1. re: MGZ

          I was quite surprized when I ran into it, as well, but the counterman enciuraged me to order and try it-offereing money back if I didn't like it. I haven't had it in the last 20 years, as I haven't been in City Islnd since then, but friends tell me it's still available,
          I don't know if these are trapped lobsters, or locally caught by hand. I know that sounds odd, but a long time ago when my brother and I used to skin dive here in the Long Isalnd Sound, we would be able to grab lobsters off the bottom by hand. Thsi would allow one to get a just molted lobster that didn't spen days in a pot waiting to be hauled.

        2. re: bagelman01

          Soft shell lobsters? You mean they keep them until they molt and then use them before that new exoskeleton hardens up, just like with soft-shelled crabs? THIS is blowing my mind.

          1. re: Pipenta

            Don't know if they were kept until molting or harvested fresh at molting time. It was a long time ago. But a delicious and different experience.

            1. re: Pipenta

              I was up in Maine twice this summer, and no one was frying soft-shell lobsters in the shell. Just the usual boiled, like hard-shell lobsters. They are cheaper but the meat is very sweet. The downside is they are watery.

              Now, if you are still curious about fried lobster, Cameron's in Brunswick (formerly Morse's) does have fried lobster on the menu. Mrs. W, a Baltimore native, ordered it. Turned out to be pretty good. Deep-fried pieces of battered lobster meat. I'd still go with steamed, lobster rolls, or lobster stew, but this was interesting novelty.

              1. re: Bob W

                If they were boiled, it's no wonder they were watery.

                As to the fried version, was it like I noted above or in the shell?

                1. re: MGZ

                  Like you noted. Definitely not in the shell. Basically fried lobster nuggets. Looked to be mostly knuckles, like you often find in lobster rolls. The batter sort of reminded me of Arthur Treacher's. Just another way to enjoy the Great Lobster Glut of 2012.

                  Cameron's is the place on Bath Rd, just past Bowdoin, heading towards the Fat Boy Drive-In. I think you can eat in your car, but we just went inside. Fat Boy is really the place to go if you want car hop service.

          2. Since this got split, I thought I'd note that there's a great deal of discussion of soft shell lobsters contained in this thread from the NJ Board:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/654879