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Maryland Soft Shell Crab

Maryland soft shell crab season rolls in as the weather warms and out once it begins to cool.  What makes a soft shell crab soft is basically harvesting/fishing the crab once they have shed their old hard exoskeletons and are still soft.  They must be removed quickly from the water before their shell begins to harden.  This process may sound strange but it delivers one of summer’s most prized delicacies in the United States.  You will see soft shell crabs on many seafood restaurant menus throughout the city.  However, Catch 35 is your Maryland soft shell crab restaurant in Chicago and Naperville!


Soft shell crab is not for the novice seafood diner; it goes beyond the traditional fish fry to a distinct texture and flavor only unique to soft shell crab.  The thin paper shell adds richness and texture to the pure crab flavors.  Plus, they are rich in protein and low in fat and only about 90 calories raw.

How is it fished?  Expert fishermen have the ability to recognize when they are about to molt; these crabs are usually kept in cages to monitor their progress.  The whole molting only takes a few hours and the crabs must be removed from the water within 2 hours of shedding so its really a watch and see kind of fishing.  The crabs must be 3 ½ inches tip to tip in order to be sold.

Preparing soft shell for cooking is simply three steps.  First, remove the apron (underbelly of the crab).   Second, remove the face (cut threw using shears).  Lastly, remove the gills (on the sides of the crab).  Now, your crab is ready to be cooked.  Maryland soft shell crab is best prepared two ways:  sautéed or fried!

Catch 35, a Chicago seafood restaurant, simply sautés the soft shell crab in brown butter, tomatoes, capers, and toasted almonds (Almondine style) and is served with French style green beans.

Catch 35, Naperville’s seafood and premium steaks restaurant, places the cleaned soft shell crabs in a light tempura batter and flash fries it to crunchy perfection.  A light and creamy lemon aioli with fresh greens accompanies this scrumptious creature.

Maryland Soft shell crab from the Chesapeake is known to produce by far the best soft shell crab.  However, the farther south you go towards the Gulf of Mexico the longer soft shell crab season you may have.  We prefer the quality of Chesapeake soft shell crab therefore our season is shorter (usually only 3 months long).  If you haven’t  yet, Reserve your table tonight and enjoy this summer seafood favorite.

Courtesy of Chef Eddie
Lemon Aioli Recipe

1 cup Mayonnaise
Grated lemon zest (1 lemon)
Juice of ½ lemon
Minced garlic 1-2 cloves
Salt & pepper

-Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and place in refrigerator until ready to use.  Store for up to 1 week.   Best as a dipping sauce or drizzled on Shellfish or Seasonal Veggies

See you soon!