June 5, 2013
The photo above is the fried soft shell crab appetizer from the Blue Moon Bistro – a simple but deliciously amazing dish. We sent some friends to Beaufort for the weekend not long ago and insisted that they try Blue Moon. They said they were a little hesitant as they wanted to spend as much time as possible sitting by the water. One taste of this dish, however, and they were hooked on Blue Moon – ah, the power of the soft shell crab.
There are so many reasons to love the soft shell crab – and we’ll detail three for you below – but, there’s also one good reason not to enjoy it…let’s dispense with that one first:
Back in the spring of 1997, Jennifer and I had been dating for about 6 months, when we went together to the famous 42nd Street Oyster Bar in Raleigh. I am a seafood fanatic. I could eat it three meals a day for the rest of my life and be completely happy. Jennifer will try a few things now and then, but give her a boneless, skinless, chicken breast any day.
Soft shell crab is one of my very favoritre seafood dishes. I love it, always have. It must be genetic, as my mother’s mother’s family is from Beaufort County, NC and I recall my grandmother speaking highly of the fried soft shell crab she ate growing up in the 1920s.
As of this fateful date though, Jennifer had never in her life tried soft shell crab.
Being a slightly adventurous soul, she gave it a try and professed to like it. We got two plates full of the wonderful, glorious crab, and we both enjoyed it.
The next morning was a Sunday and we went to church together. Just after church, Jennifer noticed a rash breaking out around her neck.
Then came the swelling.
Turns out she was allergic to soft shell crab…who’d have guessed? Nothing life-threatening, a few Benadryl and a day’s rest and she was fine. Now it’s good for a laugh. (Some crab allergies can be quite serious though and not at all laughable – don’t hesitate to seek medical care if you have a problem after trying crab for the first time).
Needless to say, no more soft shell crab for Jenn. Though, she does tolerate my love for them.
What exactly is a soft shell crab? Soft shell crab is simply the name we use for certain specis of crab after they have molted their shell and have a new, soft, shell that is edible. It’s a culinary term as opposed to a scientific one. Here in North Carolina (and in most of the US) when we say soft shell crab, we mean the Blue Crab.
Why try soft shell crab?
Here’s those three reasons to enjoy it every chance you get! If you’re not allergic.
1. Because it’s delicious!
What better reason?
What’s the most delicious way to prepare soft shell crab? I prefer them fried as simply as possible, which you can even do at home! Check out some recipes from Locals Seafood.
2. Because it’s local!
Harvested right here in North Carolina…accept no substitutes. The most recent blue crab harvest numbers I could find were from 2011 when North Carolina crabbers harvested 30 million pounds of blue crabs, or around $100 million worth, many of which are soft shells crabs. Harvesting soft shells utilizes certain techniques. Read about them on NC Catch.
3. Because it’s seasonal!
It’s a time keeper, you know it’s really spring when fresh soft shell crab are being served. Look for that May full moon and you’ll know it’s time. Also, oysters will have just gone out of season and soft shell crab is the reward for suffering the loss of the oyster.