All along the eastern and Gulf coasts, soft shell blue crabs are often referred to as “busters,” most likely a reference to a molting crab “busting” loose from its old shell. Why the buster crabs in and around New Orleans always seem to me to be much larger and more succulent than those found elsewhere I can’t explain—especially since, generally, small busters are supposed to be the tenderest and most flavorful. Soft-shell crabs are now widely available in markets from spring to mid-summer. Despite my preference for the hefty Gulf busters, the safest bet is to buy the smallest crabs you can find.
Arrange the crabs in a large, shallow baking dish, add the milk, and let soak for 30 minutes.
On a plate, combine the flour and salt and pepper, mix till well blended, and dredge the crabs lightly in the mixture. In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat, add the crabs in batches, and cook till golden brown and slightly crusty, about 3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels, transfer to a platter, and keep hot.
Pour off the excess oil from the skillet, add the butter, and heat over moderate heat till the butter foams. Add the peanuts and shake the skillet 2 minutes to coat and brown them slightly. Add the parsley, lemon juice, and Tabasco, stir well, and pour the hot sauce over the crabs.
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