Each spring, the warming of oceans and lakes follows the greening of the landscape. As the water temperature rises, it triggers migration to summer feeding grounds, spawning for reproduction and, among blue crabs, the molting of last year's shell.
These soft-shell crabs are more expensive than their hard-shell counterparts, but you get more meat since the entire crab is consumed. Soft-shell crabs are very fragile and spoil quickly. Select fresh crabs from a credible fish dealer. Clean them by removing the apron--the triangular or key-shaped belly flap. Lift the top shell gently to expose the inside. Remove the stomach, intestines and gills--the cottony, fibrous tissues lining both sides of the body near the legs. Replace the top shell and snip the face with kitchen shears. Keep the crab well refrigerated until ready to prepare.
They are best when cooked quickly at high heat, usually with a seasoned flour or batter. Sauteing with butter or olive oil after dredging in flour creates a crisp outer skin with moist meat. Broiling also works well, but remember to turn the crab over partway through to insure even cooking.
Tart citrus flavors and piquant herbs and spices complement the sweet meat. But use moderation and simple flavor combinations.