Charleston She Crab Soup The Signature Dish Of Charleston

Many restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina feature Charleston she crab soup on the menu. It is one of Charleston’s signature recipes. Sometimes referring to the types of foods in a particular region, signature foods are those which are typically used to identify the chef who cooks it the best.
The soup is named after the ‘She-Crab’, or female crab, which supplies the flavorful orange roe, or eggs, that consist of a chief ingredient in the soup. A culinary icon of Charleston, South Carolina, the Charleston she crab soup was conventionally a rich combination of cream, crab meat, roe (eggs), and a splash of sherry. The meat from a female crab is supposed to be sweeter, but it was the addition of her red-orange roe that created the dish’s depth of flavor and beautiful pale color and that resulted in the name she crab soup.
Roe is no longer harvested in order to maintain the crab population ecologically. But Charleston she crab soup traditionally has roe in it. Is it still she crab soup without the roe? The core of the recipe remains the same, but purists know that including roe in the basic recipe is the true Southern tradition. When you can, make the soup with roe and enjoy every precious spoonful.
It’s crucial that your crab meat be fresh, and so catching your own is the best way to make this recipe. Have a dozen crabs ready to shell–if you shell the female crab and find clumps of miniature red-orange beads inside, get excited! This is roe and you should be careful with it, removing it delicately and then stirring it into your soup. Crabs with roe on the outside, however, should be put back in the water.
The onions, garlic and celery need to be cooked in a heavy bottom medium sized sauce pain with some olive oil until they are clear. The next step is to deglaze the pan using sherry followed by the crab roe, bay leaf and shellfish stock. When that is done, get it to a slow simmer and simmer for 15 minutes.
After you add the milk, allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes. Then, keeping it on simmer, add the rice and cook until the rice softens up. Next, add hot sauce to taste, Worcestershire sauce, and mace. Take out the bay leaf and then use a blender to puree. Once smooth and thick, strain the soup using a fine sieve. Finally, add crab meat and season with salt and pepper.
When making the best she crab soup be sure to use high quality crab meat. Cheap crab meat that you need to take out of the shells is always mushy so don’t waste your time. Crab roe however can be a bit salty, so do use it sparingly. You can freeze crab meat and it will keep well if you use a secured sealed bag.