Maryland Crab Soup
Maryland has crabs.
That’s what a lot of people know Maryland for: The Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab. I am a native Marylander, born and raised. But because I have been an intermittently successful vegetarian for a year and a half, I didn’t immediately think of preparing a crab dish for Macheesmo when Nick tweeted asking whether anyone wanted to write a guest post while he is of getting hitched. But, through conversations with my siblings last week, it became obvious: Maryland Crab Soup is the way to go.
Crab is some down-home cookin’ in my family. Our dinner table was frequently covered thick with newspaper, and scrapes on our hands stung with Old Bay and vinegar as we picked through and ate bushel upon bushel of crabs. We almost always had a boat, and we went swimming, fishing, and crabbing pretty frequently.
My Dad and I once caught two bushels of crabs in under an hour for 4th of July weekend, during which a single bushel was selling for up to $200 or more, depending on the quality of the crab. So, the ability to catch one’s own crab has spoiled me a bit. I never used to have to pay for crab. We just caught our own.
Deciding Maryland Crab Soup was the perfect dish to prepare because of those warm fuzzy childhood memories, I went to the Food Lion near the current homestead (now in Winchester, Va.). When I saw that one pound of canned (!?!) crab meat cost $12.99, I was floored. Luckily, Chicken of the Sea crab meat from the Philippines was on sale—only $7.99. Even so, it’s still chaffing to spend money on crab at all, but I sucked it up.
Maryland Crab Soup
Yield: Serves 10.
1.5 Cups onion, chopped (The original recipe calls for 1/4 Cup, but I like onion.)
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Cups red potatoes, cubed
1/2 Cup lima beans
1 Cup green beans
1/2 Cup corn
28 Ounces canned tomatoes with juices
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons Old Bay seasoning (The original recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon, but I thought that was too little. You may disagree! Season to taste.)
1/2 Teaspoon lemon pepper
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Quart chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 Pound crab meat (The recipe says to use backfin meat—it really is the best. But all the store had was claw. It worked out fine.)
1) Dice the onions, and celery. Peel and dice the potatoes and mince the garlic. Add the celery and onion to a pot with a drizzle of oil over medium heat until they start to soften, 4-5 minutes. Then add garlic and continue to cook for another minute.
2) When the onions are soft, but not browned, add the lemon pepper, old bay, worcestershire sauce and keep cooking for another minutes.
3) Then add the rest of the vegetables, the broth, and a bay leaf.
4) Simmer soup for about 40 minutes, covered.
5) Meanwhile, pick over crab to remove any shells or cartilage.
6) Once potatoes are soft, stir in crab and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
7) Remove the bay leaf and serve. Garnish with crackers or bread.
Adapted from About.com Baltimore.
I really like chunky soups. Stews, some people call them. Most of these vegetables have a subtle flavor on their own, so the spices and crab play a key role in making this soup tasty. I usually don’t follow recipes very well, and this one is no exception. There are so many variations to Maryland Crab Soup, however, so I picked one that looked the best to me and ran with it. You can add vegetables, modify amounts of ingredients, basically do whatever you want—as long as there are tomatoes, Old Bay, and crab in there, your Maryland Crab Soup will probably taste perfectly fine!
Prepare the Veggies
If you’re like me, you’re not like Martha Stewart at all. You don’t think ahead and you don’t have a multitude of interns who pre-chop vegetables for you and place them in bowls around your kitchen for whenever you might need them. So after you dice your onion and celery as finely or as chunkily as you wish and toss them into the pan with the olive oil and minced garlic, you’ll start freaking out that you haven’t washed the potatoes and cubed them yet.
While you’re sauteing the onion, garlic, and celery for five minutes, go ahead and chunk up your potatoes. I left the red skins on because I like them that way. Feel free to peel them, but if you do, please be like Martha’s interns and do it beforehand, not last-minute while your onions are being sauteed (as I’m wont to do).
When the onions are starting to glisten and become transparent, right before before they turn yellowy-brown, add the lemon pepper, Old Bay, and Worcestershire sauce and saute just a minute or two more. Then, add the rest of the vegetables, the chicken broth, and the bay leaf. I got petite-cut canned tomatoes because I don’t like large chunks of that particular berry.
I used frozen lima beans, green beans, and corn because they’re easier and not currently in season locally. This soup would probably be even more amazing in the summer when all these vegetables could be harvested from one’s backyard and the crabs could be caught fresh just off the pier.
In my fantasy, I live a life of leisure, gardening, and cooking.
But back to the cooking: stuff I didn’t do. The original recipe calls for an additional 3 cups of water—I didn’t include that (mostly because I forgot to, but also because the pan/pot I was using didn’t have room). If you want the soup to be more soupy, go ahead and add the water, but if you like your soups chunkier (as I do), then don’t bother. If you don’t add the water, you might want to lower the amount of Old Bay you put in or the soup might be a little too spicy (as mine is).
Simmer covered for about 50 minutes to an hour, or until the potatoes become soft. Taste a potato. When they’re soft—they’ll be delicious!
After the vegetables have been simmering for about 40 minutes, start going through your crab meat and pick out cartilage or pieces of shell that might be in there. I thought I was pretty thorough, but the first piece of meat I (guiltily) snuck into my mouth had cartilage in it. I gave up on my pile at that point. I’m going to let the soup eaters discover the bits for me!
Add the picked crab into the soup after the potatoes have become soft. Mix it in and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and serve!
My younger brother taught me the proper method by which our family’s favorite King’s Hawaiian Sweet rolls should be split and placed on one’s soup. I always was more of an eater of food instead of an artistic presenter of food, so I didn’t retain that information from our childhood. Croutons, stale bread bites, or those yummy oyster crackers would be wonderful sprinkled on top of this soup.
It’s a very hearty soup, and it’s also pretty healthy. The entire vat that I made clocked in at 25.5 points in the Weight Watchers system, which means that each serving is probably only 2.5 or 3 points.
It’s almost shocking. Eat on! (And please ignore the vegetarian in the back gnawing on crab legs.)