Saturday in Los Angeles was one of those perfect, sunny Southern California days, and so when my friends Jash and Sly informed me that they were heading off to Silver Lake for the farmer’s market, I was more than happy to tag along for fun. You see, I’m notoriously ineffective at farmer’s markets. I tend to get overwhelmed with choices, eventually leading to a general central nervous system breakdown that leaves me confused, clammy, and just a tad sleepy. My biggest problem is that I’m a recipe guy. I have little to no cooking sense, and therefore I rely almost exclusively on other people’s directions. That’s why when I wander into a veritable bazaar of fresh produce such as the farmer’s market, I rarely know what the hell to get. Sure, there are some no-brainers — corn on the cob is always welcomed. But do I need tomatoes? Or cucumbers? Or any number of the strange items being hawked by the farmers of California? I just don’t know.
This trip to the farmer’s market, however, proved to be surprisingly bountiful and inspriational. Not only did I come across a neat variety of herbs (which I eventually bought and planted — more on that later), but I stumbled upon the one thing I had been craving for about two months now: SOFT SHELL CRABS. Yes, those elusive yet delicious crustaceans are a true favorite of mine, and given that they’re highly seasonal and rarely found here in Los Angeles, this turn of events elicited major, major excitement from me. I immediately called over Sly and Jash to show them my discovery, and they too became quite excited. I opted to buy two of the little, freshly-molted guys; Sly went for one; and Jash, who appreciated the situation, decided to sit this crabfest out.
And so we set a plan in motion: we would repair back to my abode and cook up the crabs for what would surely be a lunch to remember. Pictures — including some slightly graphic crab decapitation shots — after the jump…

So after all my talk about always needing a recipe, I decided to wing it by sautéing the crabs with white wine, garlic, parsley, and shallots. To quote Ina Garten, who also inspired this very Provençal preparation, “How bad can THAT be?”

Luckily, if my winging it happened to veer off course, I had the helpful presence of jash and Sly on hand to offer advice. Here’s a shot of me chopping shallots. Sly, it should be noted, was on camera duty.

After having prepped the garlic, parsley, and shallots, I put out a plate of flour for dredging. The mis-en-place is ready.

I begin untying the first bag o’ crab. I should note that this was the first time I had ever cooked soft shell crabs. I think the same went for Sly and jash.

Behold, the first victim.

Me and my new friend.

There was much debate about what to name the crabs. We initially went the intellectual route and labeled them Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. But then Sly later found roe in her crab and renamed it Esther, which hardly seemed in keeping with the classical theme we had going on. Given that the whole Greek thing had now been ruined, I then renamed one of my crabs Joanne, and the other one… well, it never received an official name. Jash wanted Julio (OR Ricardo Montalbán), Sly envisioned Maurice, and I was partial to Rolando.

Meet Rolando. He has a cute, crabby face and all…


As per the rules of Crab Cleaning 101, I had to cut off Rolando’s eyeballs and mouth.

I lift a flap of Rolando’s decidedly soft shell and reveal the gills. They will be removed.

Sly, meanwhile, hones her inner chiropodist-meets-Anne-Geddes and takes many photos of our feet.

Patting Rolando dry for an optimal dredging experience.

Now it’s time for Esther to face the music.

Snip snip. What this photo doesn’t show is that I accidentally cut right INTO her eyeball, causing it to squeeze outward and send Sly into a series of horrified giggles.

Fun times.

A necessary step in the cleaning process: peeling back the “apron” and cutting it off.

I then ready Esther’s gills for removal.

And last but not least, we have Joanne.

A regular Marie Antoinette, this one.

Side note: DAMMIT! We totally should have named them Anne (Boleyn), Marie, and Robespierre!

All cleaned and prepped, the crabs are ready to go. I like to think of them here as being in an invisible canoe.

The dredging commences. Joanne appears resistant to the idea. But don’t worry: she’s dead. Bitch gonna take it!

Further dredging excitement.

One last crab to flour up.

How humiliating for them.

Time to heat up the olive oil!

Before going into the hot oil, I season the crabs with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, we decide to cook the sauce first. We dump the garlic, parsley, and shallots into the pan and sauté away.

You pretty much can’t go wrong with this combo.

More salt for the sauce. Note the new salt jar from Ikea. $2.99.

Once the herbs have cooked for a bit, I pour in my finest Charles Shaw wine.

I also add some flour and a touch of Earth Balance to thicken it all up. We then reserve the sauce in another pan.

Sly again fixates on her feet. This angle does her dress no favors.

In go the crabs.

I believe the word Rolando is looking for is “BAAAAAAAHHHHARRGH!!!!”

Soon Joanne and Esther meet a similar fate.

Arranging the crabs in the pan.


Cooking away in olive oil. According to Emeril, we need to sauté for about two minutes on each side.

I flip the first one after two minutes. Turns out it was a tad premature. Probably could have used another forty-five seconds to a minute. Oh well.

And now they’re all flipped.

After two more minutes, I remove the crabs to the other pan.

I then deglaze with more wine — Jash’s brilliant suggestion. It was really a team effort.

Everything then goes back into the original, deglazed pan for another thirty seconds or so.

Sly’s lens again gravitates towards the floor, this time seeking out Jash’s feet.

Meanwhile, here’s a small ciabatta loaf from Fresh & Easy. I cut it in half and stick it in the toaster.

The crabs are at last ready to plate. Here is Esther looking like she just fell from a ten story building.

Macro shot!

Sly, who’s cropped out, and I prepare to dig in. It should be noted that the bread was rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, courtesy of Jash. Everything smelled out of control amazing.

I got crab fever!

About to take the plunge.

Sly has taken her first bite. You can just barely see her moaning with ecstasy.

I go in for my first taste.

It’s seriously, seriously delicious.

Nom nom nom…

The Verdict: Totally awesome. An instant highlight of the entire weekend. The only thing I would have changed would have been to cook the crabs a little longer on each side (thanks EMERIL) to crisp them up just a tad more. But in a sense, it really didn’t matter. The crabs were still delicious, filled with a salty, tangy punch that kept us going back for more. I alternated between eating the crab solo and placing gobs of it on the bread. Both methods were fantastic. I’m drooling just thinking about it now.
At $5 a pop, soft shell crabs aren’t the cheapest of Poseidon’s offerings, but they’re certainly some of the best. If you can find them, I highly suggest making a batch. Here’s a handy guide to cleaning them.

14 replies on “ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: I Got Crabs Edition”

  1. OMG! Nobody should have so much fun having crabs! My sides hurting from laughing. Well done, Ben. You’ve made my day.

  2. Often I have looked at the soft shelled crab in wonder, wondering do you really EAT the shells, claws and all? Do they taste like the perfect bliss of the grown hard shelled relative? Do you eat all of it?
    Well now I know a bit more thanks to you B-Side. I am not sure I can go there. I COOK a lot but seeing the face cutting, the apron snapping, and THE gill removal scares me. YOU CUT THEIR FACE OFF!!!
    Are you even suppose to eat these faceless bottom feeding sea creatures? Who decided to remove the face? This is seriously freaking me out! If they had a mouth left what would it say?

  3. I’ve been reading your blog forever, but have never commented til now… I have a handy tidbit. If you ever want soft shell crabs and don’t want to pay $5 each, they usually sell them at the 99 Ranch market. They have one in Van Nuys, I think, and then out in the San Gabriel Valley. I think they sell them frozen (it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten them), so you have to defrost and then squeeze a ton of water out of them, but they’re still pretty tasty.

  4. Solerinis – thanks for the tip. Next time I’m in either area, I’ll check it out. I used to go to a great pho place next to the Ranch 99 in Van Nuys.
    kellsbells – the crabs are dead long before the “surgical procedure” so fear not.
    Erica – all your concerns will disappear once you actually try the goodness that is soft shell crab. Just a warning though – a lot of people like it in sushi. I think that’s a total waste. You lose a lot of the flavor with all the rice and other stuff. Make sure you try the crabs either sauteed or deep fried. so good…

  5. My dorm was known for crabs first year; thankfully, I never had them. I do love the food crabs–they looked very yummy!! It also looked very simple to make.

  6. OK, if possible, I would like to request a full shot of Sly’s dress and where she got it (it looks super cute!)

  7. Ugh. Love ya, B-Side, but GROSS! How can you eat that shit but you won’t eat a berry? Freak.

  8. I’m intrigued and I must try it at once. At our farmer’s market they only have lettuce and horrible crafts. When people think Maine they always think lobster, but my Maine trip highlights ALWAYS include a Maine crabmeat roll. Is that hard shell? I would have loved to have seen the exchanges between the 3 of you at the market with that little digital movie thinger. I still watch the Jash and Sly e-mail movie. LOVE IT!

  9. A little late in the game but I totally enjoyed this adventure. Thank Robness those crabs were dead when you defaced them.
    I agree Jash needs a little heel attention.
    If you ever buy crab again, you should try to curry it and have it with dumplings!

Comments are closed.