Parkers soft-shell crabs fresh, delicious

June 21, 2013 (CHICAGO)

"It has to say 'wild, caught, USA' and it will say it's from the Chesapeake. They're proud of what they do and they're gonna say it," said Chef Pat McLaughlin.

Those farmers have to know exactly when to pull them from the water.

"It's such a short time that they have to actually pick these when they're molting; they only have about two to three hours to get them out of the water and into these boxes," McLaughlin said.

When they arrive, the cooks dredge them in flour, dunk them in beer batter, then submerge them in hot oil for a few minutes, until they're crisp.

"I like primes. I think there's a nice crunchiness to it. They're not too mealy; I think a whale can get very mealy, not enough of the crisp, crunchy texture that you like with a softshell," he said.

Soft, striata loaves are lightly grilled, then smeared with an anchovy-flecked green goddess dressing. On goes crisp lettuce and tomato, plus a healthy mound of coleslaw, and finally, the fried crab, which makes for a massive - and messy - sandwich.

"A little messy, but I think if you're going to have a sandwich - a po' boy so to speak - it's gonna be a messy event," he said.

The softshells can also be sauteed, if you don't want them deep-fried. McLaughlin says the season should last at least another month.

Parkers' Restaurant & Bar
1000 31st St., Downers Grove

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