Soft shell crabs from the Chesapeake Bay are some of the most coveted in the country. The bulk of their texture is stunningly silky and their flavor elegantly balanced, with legs that crisp up like potato chips and an exterior that’s delicately crisp. When their harvest is timed perfectly, Chesapeake soft shells offer so much of what we love most about crutacean shellfish, and can be finished so many different ways. These particular selections are manageably sized, with an exquisite interplay of sweetness and savoriness.
Their season commences in the springtime, as the water warms up and the crabs emerge from their winter slumber. And though the fishing industry in the Chesapeake is robust, it still takes expertise and attention to detail to wrangle the finest catches. Our fishing partners scour the Bay for “peelers” — crabs on the brink of molting, or shedding their hard exterior shell. The peelers are then transferred to freshwater tanks where they continue to be meticulously monitored while gradually shedding their shells, leaving only a narrow opportunity for harvesting between the total acquiesence of the original shell and the formation of the next one. This timing is what perfects the textural transition from exterior to interior and keeps the meat so soft and sweet.