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Seriously Simple: Cornmeal-crusted soft-shell crabs are a seasonal delight

By Diane Rossen Worthington, Tribune Content Agency on

Soft-shell crabs, a celebrated specialty of Maryland, are prized for their delicate flavor. The name refers to a growth stage of the crab (most commonly the blue crab found along the Atlantic and Gulf states), during which time it casts off its shell to grow a larger one. The crabs have an entirely different taste when they are in this state, and the delicate soft shells add a nice crunch, especially when sautéed quickly.

The peak of the soft-shell crab season is in July and August. Save yourself extra fuss by having the crabs cleaned at the fish market. If you prefer buying them live, look on YouTube for instructions on how to clean them.

The entire crab can be eaten in its soft-shell state, and it is a simple delicacy when prepared with a few flavorful items. During their short season, the shellfish are air-freighted around the country and are well worth the splurge to buy them fresh. Make sure to select medium-large crabs. I often serve one as a first course and two as a main course.

I have found that the best way to enjoy soft-shell crabs is to saute them in butter, along with lemon juice, garlic and capers — just enough ingredients to complement the crab without masking its inherent flavor. The cornmeal coating adds an appealing crusty corn flavor. Colorful coleslaw and tiny roast potatoes or ears of fresh corn round out this meal for a summertime delight.

Cornmeal-Crusted Soft-Shell Crabs with Lemon-Caper Sauce

Serves 4


8 soft-shell crabs

Lemon wedges, for garnish

For the cornmeal coating:

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour


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