A Crab Overview
By Ellen Ringlein
If one thinks of Maryland food delicacies, one has to talk about crabs. Callinectes sapidus is the scientific name of the blue crabs which are caught in the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere. Usually the male crabs, the “jimmies,” are the ones that are eaten; the females, the “sooks,” are generally released back in the bay or ocean, so that more crabs can be born. From July through September, local crabs are served whole either as soft-shell crabs or as steamed crabs. Crab meat is also the main ingredient in many other dishes, including the world famous Maryland crab cakes.
Soft-shell crabs are young crabs that have just molted; that is, they have lost their hard exoskeleton and the new one hasn’t hardened yet. They are sautéed or fried and eaten whole on sandwiches.
In the summer, steamed crabs are very popular. For many years our Maryland affiliate has held a fundraiser in August at which the main attraction is steamed crabs. Freshly caught crabs are steamed and seasoned with Old Bay, a local spice blend which is now available in supermarkets around the country. Eating steamed crabs is quite the production. One has to “pick” the crabs, which involves opening up the hard shell of the crab and removing the innards, known as the “mustard” to get at the crab meat. Some locals consider the “mustard” as a delicacy as well. One uses a crab mallet to break open the claws, which also contain quite a bit of meat. As you can imagine, picking crabs is a messy affair; that’s why they are generally eaten at tables covered in paper. At fine restaurants one is even given a bib.
The best crab cakes are prepared with almost no filler, consisting of all-lump (backfin) crab meat. They are either fried or broiled and served on a platter or sandwich. They are of course seasoned with Old Bay.
Crab Imperial is a dish made with lump crab meat baked in an Imperial Sauce, which is a mixture of mayonnaise, egg yolks, and seasonings, including, of course, Old Bay. It is often served over fish.
Two soups that feature crab meat are also popular in Maryland: cream of crab soup and Maryland crab soup. Cream of crab soup has a white sauce as its base. Maryland crab soup uses a spicy tomato vegetable base which is reminiscent of minestrone. Of course, both soups are seasoned with Old Bay.
The next time you visit Maryland, be sure to sample one or more of our delicious signature crab dishes.
How to Pick a Crab
By Maryellen Thompson
Ellen Ringlein told you a little about picking crabs last week, but here’s a more detailed description if you’re inclined to give it a try. Note that the crabs should, of course, have been steamed first.
As the crab sits before you on the table waiting impatiently to be eaten, you first flip it onto its back, pull the bottom shell at the center until it comes off, and then, with your thumbs poised with one on the edge of the top shell and one thumb on the edge of the bottom shell, use them to pry the top shell from the bottom shell. You can then throw away the top shell. Then scoop out the slimy lungs and other organs, known as the “mustard,” from the middle of the bottom of the crab and trash it, too, unless you are one of those strange souls who finds it appetizing. At this point you have two sides (right and left) and a little more work to get the edible part of the crab. Once that is obtained you can triumphantly start shoveling crab meat into your mouth. The big claws have really good crab meat in them. With a crab mallet, just wack away at the large claws to obtain some yummy claw meat. The smaller claws may or may not be worth further work or can be trashed. Happy picking!
Have a Crabby Day
By Sharon Maneki
If you choose, you could have three meals a day plus snacks using crabs without ever duplicating a dish.
For breakfast, have a crab omelet.
For lunch, have a Maryland burger, which is a hamburger topped with fresh jumbo lump crab meat, provolone, and crab imperial sauce.
There are lots of options for dinner. Start out with an appetizer such as a crab meat cocktail, which will be cold and refreshing. For the entrée, of course you could do crab cakes – you can even do them deep fried, then called crab fluff! Another lesser-known but delicious possibility is crab meat Norfolk-style, in which you sauté the crab in a quarter-pound of butter per pound of crab meat.
If hors d’oeuvres or snacks are more your thing, try crab balls, crab dip, crab fries, crab pretzel, and one of Dr. Maurer’s specialties, crab rangoon, a cream cheese and crab meat stuffed wonton wrapper that has been deep fried.
If you don’t have indigestion after all that and you’re up for dessert, try Old Bay ice cream. The base flavor could either be vanilla or caramel. Since Old Bay is used on crab, it qualifies!
Remember our challenge: eat something with crab in it at our banquet, and of course, have a crabby day!