It is soft-shell crab season at Mr. P’s and the demand for this delicatessen is higher than ever. As much as we love them, we’ve found that most people don’t know how or why the crab’s shell is soft. A soft-shell crab is just a regular crab – in our area it is most typically a blue crab – that has gotten too big for its current shell (exoskeleton) and must shed the shell and grow a new one (a process called molting).
A few weeks prior to the molting process, the crab begins to separate the old shell from the underlying skin and then begins to form a new, soft, paper-like shell beneath the old one. About 24 hours before molting, the crab starts to absorb seawater and swell up like a balloon. This causes the old shell to expand and come apart so that the crab can back out of the shell by pushing and compressing all of its appendages repeatedly.
Once released, the coat (soft shell) will harden in just a few hours into a new shell. This is a VERY short window for harvesting (and feasting). Eating them fresh is hands down the only way to enjoy them. That’s why at Mr. P’s, we only have them for a short time and only on days when they are available during the season. No frozen crabs here!
Our most popular preparation is a cornmeal crusted and fried soft-shell crab topped with crumbled bacon, scallions and a lemon butter wine sauce! The season won’t last long, so come in soon and enjoy soft-shell crabs!