Wednesday, June 16, 2010

P.S. How to Clean Soft-Shell Crabs

Finally! Soft-shell crabs are in season, and I was able to get my hands on some fresh ones and finish the last piece of the puzzle!!

How to Clean Soft-Shell Crabs (p. 123)

I headed down to Chinatown the other day, and while I didn't have my pick of them, I did find one seafood place selling soft-shell crabs. I brought four of them home in a bag of ice, where they sat in my fridge for a few hours until I was ready to clean them.

Marcy was here (of course), and she was concerned that they might still be alive, but I assumed they would probably have suffocated or died of hypothermia by then.

So I started cleaning them.

First was cutting off their face. Actually, their eyes and mouth. Nice image, right? Then you scoop out the "soft matter just behind this cut." I'd just seen people doing this on TV, so I knew the soft matter should be a yellowish-white, but all I could see was a clear, jelly-like substance. I had to stick my finger inside its head (which is also its torso - talk about short-waisted!) and scoop out the clear jelly to get to the aforementioned "soft matter" hiding behind.

Next thing to cut off is the apron, on the other side of the crab. That was easy, uncomplicated.

And finally, you cut off the gills, which can be found underneath the shells on either side - they're sort of flappy, chrysanthemum petal-type things.

So I clean two crabs, very successfully I might add, and then I pick up the third one, and it's twitchingly alive. Ugh. Just like with Lobster Fest, I have to confront my murderer side and cut off the face of a living thing. A thing that I'm going to be eating in a matter of minutes.

Marcy was literally hiding her face at this point.

And what did I do?

I cut its face off. And then I put it down and waited until it stopped moving, which took a good couple of minutes. Thankfully the fourth crab was DOA, so I cleaned that one, while #3 took his last breaths.

I am a murderer, what can I say?

Martha's lesson is very thorough, and the photos definitely help confirm what's what. As long as you can deal with the idea of cutting a living thing's face off, you should be fine here.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

FYI, while I haven't been cooking nearly as much as I did this past year, I have definitely kept up my skills with occasional dinner parties and cook-stravaganzas.

In case you were wondering, here are the things from this book that I've repeated since completing my project:

Basic Chicken Stock
Chicken Soup
Pureed Vegetable Soup (various)
Rosemary-Olive Butter
Sautéed Skate Wing
Indian-Spiced Split Pea Soup (of course)

I know this list looks pretty meager, but mostly I've been trying all new things. This experience definitely instilled in me a desire to explore and stretch and be adventurous in the kitchen, so now I'm enjoying either trying something I haven't done before, or seeing how another recipe compares to one I've already made. I do love cooking. :-)

Until we eat again....


  1. Glad you are venturing to new things. i have enjoyed reading your blog.

  2. Holy cow, Jeff. You're fearless. The procedure is daunting enough without the creature actually being alive when you start. I'm in the run-out-of-the-room-and-hold-my-ears-while-somebody-else-throws-them-in school of boiling lobsters, so I am duly impressed with your courage.

  3. Good instructions on cleaning a crab. The street crab stands here in Thailand could use a lesson or a read on this as they pot them whole and leave the cleanng to the consumer.