A regional specialty from Virginia, this rich crab soup is similar to a bisque and gets its name from the female crab, or she-crab. The she-crab is favored for its orange-colored crab roe, the main ingredient in she-crab soup. You will find she-crab soup on menus down South, especially in Georgia and South Carolina.
This recipe calls for live whole crabs, which are then boiled and shelled. The crab meat and roe are combined with milk and heavy cream, as well as seasonings and a bit of dry sherry to create a thick and luxurious soup.
- 4 quarts water
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 12 live female Atlantic Blue crabs, each about 4 inches wide
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons finely grated onion
- 1 teaspoon finely grated, fresh lemon peel
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 3 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped, fresh parsley
- Bring 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in a large (about 8-quart) kettle. Drop in the crabs and return the water to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes. Drain the crabs, clean, and shell. Set meat and roe aside.
- In a heavy 3- to 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the foam begins to subside, add the flour and stir until smooth and bubbly. Stirring the mixture constantly with a wire whisk, pour in the milk and cream slowly, and cook over high heat until the sauce comes to a boil and is smooth and slightly thickened.
- Gently stir in the crabmeat and roe, along with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, grated onion, lemon peel, nutmeg, and white pepper. Reduce heat to low, and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the sherry, taste for seasoning, and pour the soup into a heated serving dish or individual soup bowls. Sprinkle the top with parsley and serve immediately.
Tip and More Seafood Bisques
If you are unable to find a dozen female crabs, you can buy the crab meat and roe already cooked. For this recipe, you will need about 1 pound of Atlantic Blue crab meat and 1/2 cup of roe.
If you are a fan of this velvety smooth seafood soup, there are a few others you can try. One crab bisque features snow crab legs and a bit of tomato paste to give it a little tang and beautiful red color. Impress your guests with a lobster bisque that comes together quickly with pre-cooked lobster and just a few other ingredients. For something a little different, try a scallop bisque, a simple recipe with rich flavors.