Soft-shell season has arrived here along the Eastern Shore. All up and down the Chesapeake Bay, hardworking waterman are tending to shedding tables watching crabs bust out of their old shells, then pulling them from the water while they’re still soft and pliable, and shipped to crab connoisseurs all over the world.

Handy Seafood, located in Salisbury and Crisfield, helps them get where they need to go. They’ve been around forever. Whenever I look to an favorite old Chesapeake Bay cookbook – they ALL mention Handy. And they are still getting nods in publications – they were just mentioned in Food & Wine magazine this month. So when they reached out to me about sponsoring a post, I felt honored to be working with such a beloved local company – and jumped at the chance!

While I’m usually going straight to the source to get my crabs, I know many of you guys can’t. If that’s the case, you definitely need to check out Handy’s online store. They ship chilled and frozen crabs just about anywhere! They arrive fully cleaned and dressed, so all you have to do is figure out how you want to enjoy them. Which, was a nice change of pace for me.  But, if you do have to clean your own – click here for a great video on how-to (featuring yours truly).

They’ve got a ton of great recipes on their website, but I went with an old favorite that is found in John Shield’s Chesapeake Bay Cooking. The recipe was submitted to John by the guys in the crabhouse at Handy back in the 80’s. So, I thought it would be cool to bring the Beer Battered Soft Shells to the party.  If anyone knows how to prepare a soft shell – it’s the guys who work with them all day long. Am I right?

The batter is easy to whip up, and the crabs fry up beautifully. Perfectly golden and crunchy on the outside, tender sweet crab on the inside. I put them on a sandwich with a little tartar sauce, but I think they’d be excellent on a simple salad as well. And what an impressive presentation they make!

Summer is here on the Shore, get out there and enjoy everything that it has to offer.

Beer-Battered Soft Shells

1 1/2 cups flour (divided)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp Old Bay
1 (12 oz) beer
6 soft-shell crabs (cleaned)
vegetable oil, for frying
tartar sauce and lemon wedges

Mix 1 1/4 cup flour, salt, baking powder, paprika, and Old Bay in a small bowl. Mix in the beer and whisk until smooth. Let batter sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours to thicken.

Add remaining flour to a pie plate or dish and lightly dust softs with flour, shaking off any excess. Set aside.

Pour oil into a deep skillet to a depth of about 1 inch and heat to 375.

Gently dip each crab into the batter to coat evently, use a fork to lift out – give a few taps to let excess batter drip off. Gently slide the crabs into the hot oil, being careful to not overcrowd pan. Fry to golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side.

Remove to paper towel lined tray to drain briefly.

Serve immediately with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

Source: adapted from Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Sheilds

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at Handy Seafood. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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