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What is She-Crab Soup?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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She-crab soup is often compared to bisque because it is a rich soup that is thick and quite divine to many. Made from blue hard crabs, this American dish is generally pale but may have a yellow or orange hue due to certain seasonings. Crab roe is placed on top of the soup as garnish after it has been put into the appropriate serving dish, if a traditional recipe is followed. Butter, milk, and cream are often included in the recipe, making this dish generally unsuitable for those who are lactose intolerant.

This soup is often found on menus in Southern coastal states in the United States (US). This is especially true in Charleston, South Carolina, where it is considered a signature dish. It is believed that she-crab soup was inspired by Scottish settlers.

The highlight ingredient in she-crab soup is blue crab meat. A she-crab is a female blue crab that has not reached sexual maturity. When female blue crabs are sexually mature they are called sooks. Although specifically using she-crabs may have once been important, this is no longer the case, as the sex of the crabs is rarely considered.

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One reason is because in many instances the crab meat used for cooking this dish is plucked and packaged, with male, she-crab, and sook meat being all together. The tendency to use packaged crab meat is especially popular in restaurants. In areas where the availability of blue crab meat is limited or lacking, some individuals make she-crab soup with the meat from other types of crabs.

The remaining ingredients in she-crab soup are items considered fairly common in areas where the dish is popular. Preparation generally begins with butter and flour blended into a roux. After this the milk and cream may be added and brought to a boil. This mixture should be smooth before any other ingredients are added. To accomplish this, a great deal of stirring may be required; a whisk is generally suggested to make the task easier.

There are a number of ingredients added to provide she-crab soup's unique flavor. These include Worcestershire sauce, ground mace, and cayenne pepper. White pepper and salt are also generally added along with grated onions. The crab meat is generally added last.

Once the soup is finished, two concluding touches will be added if a traditional recipe is followed. Dry sherry may be added to the entire pot or to individual bowls. Blue crab roe, which is brilliant orange, is usually placed on the top of the soup after it is portioned. These provide both color and flavor. Crackers are commonly eaten with she-crab soup.

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