Each summer, we look forward to the time when soft shell crabs start appearing on restaurant menus and specials boards. Local eateries feature the sweet and tender blue crabs in an array of feasts and fashions, from dredged in flour, fried and sandwiched between two slices of bread, to stunning appetizer creations, and even as the most decadent topping to a Bloody Mary (see the Bay Local Bloody here).
But what if you want to prepare soft shell crabs at home? And how about trying something other than fried? Fire up the grill—things are about to get tasty.
If you’ve never put soft shells on the grill, you’ve been missing out. The smoky flavor from the open flame pairs perfectly with the succulent crab. Baste with garlic herb butter while cooking for a few minutes on each side, and they plump up to pure perfection.
We like to serve the soft shells over a bed of pasta with a quick scampi sauce using the usual suspects—butter, lemon, garlic, and white wine—along with a few cherry tomatoes and basil for added zest and color.
Move over, fried soft shells. There’s a new crab in town.
Grilled Soft-Shell Crab Scampi
10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 large lemons
4 large (prime or jumbo) soft-shell crabs, cleaned and prepped
16 oz (1 box) fettuccini pasta
1 1/2 cups dry white wine (like Chardonnay)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
10 leaves fresh basil, sliced chiffonade-style
Fresh ground pepper
Fill a large stockpot with water and 1/4 cup kosher salt and bring to boil over high heat. Prepare pasta according to directions on package.
Prepare the garlic butter for basting. Melt a stick of butter in a small saucepan. Slice one of the lemons, and add 2 or 3 slices to the melted butter, as well as half (1 tbsp.) of the minced garlic, thyme and rosemary. Let cook for one minute to release flavors, then remove from heat and set aside.
Heat grill to medium-high. Season crabs with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil on both sides. Place on grill, and cook for about 6 minutes on each side.
Prepare the scampi sauce by melting the other stick of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic, cherry tomatoes, white wine, and the juice of the other lemon. Increase heat to high, and let reduce for about 5 minutes. Stir in half of the fresh basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Scoop pasta onto a large plate. Place a grilled soft shell on top, then pour about 1/2 cup of the scampi sauce on top. Garnish with fresh basil and the remaining lemon slices.
We recommend pairing with a crisp, white wine, like Church Creek Steel Fermented Chardonnay from Chatham Vineyards on the Eastern Shore.
Laura Davis is the resident food blogger for Tide and Thyme. A wife and stay-at-home mom on Chincoteague Island, Davis enjoys trying new recipes, learning about food history and just talking to folks about food in general. Visit TideAndThyme.com to learn more.