So, I got the gift of crabs for the 4th of July. Don't be concerned. I'm talking about beautifully steamed and Old Bay seasoned crabs leftover from a holiday party. In the spirit of leaving nothing to waste, I started to transform these bad boyz into Maryland classics that every Baltimore chef should have in their repertoire.
I have to say, I hate pickin' crabs. I'm from St. Louis originally where we don't typically eat crabs. Way too much work for such a little bit of crab. Several Marylanders have sat beside me going through the daunting task of extracting the small edible goodness from the mustard and shells. Don't let your work be in vain! Save the shells. Cover them with water in a pot with celery, carrots, and a bay leaf to create a quick crab stock. This makes a great and flavorful base for soup and liquid for rice.
After about 30 minutes of simmering, the broth can be poured through a mesh strainer and used to make Maryland Crab Soup. I added an equal amount of crushed tomato with a saute of tomato, garlic, onion, and parsley that I tend to keep on hand. I let that simmer to meld the flavors along with salt, pepper, and Old Bay (You'll note that Old Bay in a constant in all of these recipes.).
In a saute pan, I let some frozen corn on high heat brown in oil to extract the sweetness. When the soup was flavored just how I wanted it, I bowled it up. I used the corn, parsley, and a mound of crabmeat as a topper. This was my first time tackling this soup. It won't be the last..dee-lish!
Cream of Crab Soup was up next. I thickened the crab stock with roux (flour cooked in oil in equal parts). I let my roux get a little darker than what I wanted. I think I was in gumbo mode for a moment. When I cooked the roux in the stock long enough for the floury taste to go away, I added some half and half. From there, it was a matter of stirring and adjusting the heat to achieve the desired viscosity. Once the soup coated the back of a spoon, I added Old Bay, white pepper, and salt to taste. I used some picked crab and parsley as my garnish. Pretty tasty!
Next on deck was a Crab Paella. The crab stock was used to cook the rice with that tomato saute that I mentioned before. I smoked a spice blend of paprika, oregano, thyme, red pepper, and black pepper in a dry pan. That went into the liquid with the rice. I let a couple of lemon slices and whole crab simmer with the rice. I have never done this specific dish before, but the final product was really fragrant from the lemon and crab. I think lemon will go in with my rice the next time I make traditional Spanish paella, too.
Of course, I couldn't do this post without including crabcakes. I have to say, here in B'mo, it's all about the quantity and chunks of crab in the cakes. My pickin' inabilities don't really yield big chunks of anything, but simple mayo, dijon, fresh breadcrumbs, and Old Bay made for some tasty crabcakes. Making sure your mix isn't too wet and not overmixing is key. As with cooking anything in oil, you can't sleep on the heat. The mix needs to sizzle when it hits the pan. Bootleg an aioli like I did by adding roasted garlic, lemon juice, salt and white pepper to mayo. Or go all out and do a remoulade. Just nail these B'mo classics.