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  • 2 - 4
  • 45m

Fried Soft-Shell Crabs served on Watercress with Thousand Island Dressing

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Every year I eagerly await Maryland's soft shell crab season. A great tasting soft shell just takes me back to when I was a kid and I’d watch my grandmother and her sister sauté them in butter and serve them up between two thick slices of bread. On the table was a side of tartar sauce for drizzling and dipping. Over the years I've eaten soft shell crabs all kinds of ways. Right now I love them on watercress with homemade Thousand Island Dressing. It’s a bit different, I know, but the different textures—the crispy soft shell with the delicate greens—make this dish quite extraordinary.

  • Place the flour and whisked eggs in two separate shallow bowls.
  • In a third shallow bowl combine the panko, breadcrumbs, salt, parsley, and pepper or seafood seasoning and mix until well combined.
  • Dip the crab in the flour for a light dusting.
  • Then completely submerge it in the egg mixture making sure all of it gets covered.
  • Remove the crab from the egg, shake off the excess and transfer it to the bowl of panko and breadcrumbs.
  • One at a time, coat both sides of the crab with the mixture.
  • Get as much to stick as possible.
  • You almost have to press it on.
  • Set aside on a clean plate and follow the same procedure with the second crab.
  • Sauté the crabs in oil or butter in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until slightly crispy.
  • Meanwhile prepare the Thousand Island dressing.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle juice, and pickle relish.
  • Whisk together until well combined and smooth.
  • Set aside.
  • Remove the crabs from the skillet and place them neatly on a bed of watercress and a few slices of jicama.
  • Generously drizzle the salads with the Thousand Island dressing and serve.

Cleaning Soft Shell Crabs

There are two methods to clean a soft-shell crab.

Top Shell Intact: cut away the eyes and mouth with a sharp knife or scissors. Fold back one side of the top shell to expose the pale orange gills. Pull away and discard the gills from both sides of the crab. Turn the crab over and fold back the tail flap. Pull it away from the body and discard.

Top Shell Removed: insert your fingers or the knife and unfold the crab’s apron, located in the middle of the crab’s body. Pull it back away from the body, while also pulling and lifting up the top shell. Pull it off and discard. Remove and discard the six gills, which look like spongy fingers, and then remove their entrails using your fingers.

  • For the Crabs:
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 large egg, finely whisked
  • ½ cup plain panko
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch freshly ground black pepper or your favorite seafood seasoning
  • 2 cleaned Hotel soft-shell crabs, approximately 2 ounces each, either with top shells in-tact or removed, see note below
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or unsalted butter for frying
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • few slices of jicama (or whatever you like in your salad)
  • For the Thousand Island Dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon store-bought ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon pickle relish juice
  • 1 teaspoon of pickle relish, if you like it chunky
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