A soft-shell crab is a regular crab that molted its hard shell. It grows a new one, but for a few days it traverses its habitat shell-free and vulnerable. The peak season for purchasing soft-shell crabs is from April through mid-September. Purchase frozen crabs during the offseason, and in areas where crabs are scarce, because fresh crabs expire the day of purchase. Preparing frozen soft-shell crabs is a simple process and eating them is hassle-free compared with the relatively ambitious hard-shell cracking requirements.
Thaw the crabs overnight in the refrigerator. Open the package and rinse and dry the crabs with paper towels. Pour flour onto a cutting board or sanitary work surface and dredge the crabs through the flour on both sides until thoroughly covered.
Heat the skillet on high and add butter until it froths and melts. Lift the pan and swirl the butter until it covers the bottom of the skillet. Return it to the burner and add the crabs, one at a time.
Monitor carefully, as after about three minutes, the crabs will appear dark brownish red, indicating they are cooked. Flip the crabs and heat for an additional three minutes. When the crabs are cooked, remove them from the pan with a spatula. Place them on a paper towel-lined plate.
Use the butter and soft-shell crab juices in the skillet for the preparation of side dishes. Heat the skillet, add minced shallots and garlic, and saute greens, such as spinach or watercress. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper for a refreshing and healthy side dish.
A full-bodied chardonnay complements the creamy notes of soft-shell crabs cooked in butter.