As many of you know I moved a few months ago. The moving process is hard and can take a while to clean up, and sort decades of personal mementos and possessions. Going through many boxes and files, all indications were there I was a food and fashion lover from an early age. Magazine clippings were various assorted recipes and fashion spreads. I recall reading Jeffrey Steingarten at a young age and trying to replicate his recipes for my father on visitations.I always saved such things as I knew one day, they would be useful. While cleaning out some drawers I came across some wooden crab mallets from my childhood in the Washington D.C area. While Chicago has been my home for over a decade, and my mothers hometown, essentially I’m a East Coast Girl . They say you can never go home again, and it’s true. But sometimes your taste buds yearn for long forgotten tastes of your past that aren’t always available.
I loved crabs and lobster as a kid. I remember my Mommy and Daddy would take me down to the Wharf in D.C, before it became all gentrified and commercialized, and get bushels of live crabs to cook up for a party. I would ride in fear in the car on the way home to the suburbs worried those blue crabs would climb out of the bushel and pinch me. I loved going to local crab houses around Maryland laid out with brown paper. With my bib and wooden mallet ready, we all dug into to crustaceans loaded down with salty, spicy Old Bay Seasoning. I was an expert and could easily crack open and polish off a dozen. If there were leftovers, the one or two would be an after school treat cold from the fridge. The sweet meat more firmed up. Hot or cold they were delicious and my mother loved to indulge her budding epicurean . Time went on, my parents divorced, and we moved. My mother and I lived for a brief spell in Baltimore with my step father, which I hated, but I loved the crabs. Going down to Fells Point for crabs relieved my building tensions and resentment of being in a place I didn’t want to be. Living in Chicago its rare to find Blue Crabs. But it is possible. Here in the Midwest , Alaskan King Crab Legs rule as opposed to the smaller blue crabs. All have to be flown in. I have found live crabs flown in various places on the South Side, and more specifically Asian Markets. H Mart carries them regularly and I picked up some tongs and grabbed some of the pinchy fighters to go into my brown paper bag. On the way home I remembered my fear as kid while driving, but knew I was in for a treat. I indulge in crabs and such when Certain Someone is away. He feels such food is too much work. It is. But its a ritual I relish and enjoy, preferably in messy solitude, like when I was a kid. A treat to myself.
In Maryland the crab is always steamed. Elsewhere it boiled. I don’t have a steamer so I boil. My mother used to make me a quick sauce to dip my meat in consisting of Mayonnaise and Ketchup, kind of like a remouldae. I modernized her sauce with more modern and available ingredients of today. The Blue Crabs I purchased were on the smaller side, as there isn’t as much choice in size and there was back home on the East Coast. I got a variety of male and female. The males have a T shaped apron and blue tipped claws, while the females have a triangular or more mature bell shaped apron with red tipped claws. The females are sweeter and have roe inside, which you can discard or consider it a delicacy and make a sauce with .
I wont give a recipe , but explain my favorite way to cook and eat crabs
- 1 part of water depending on quantity of crabs to 1 part beer or vinegar. Not to cover but between a steam and boil.
- Liberal lashing of Old Bay Seasoning or a Crab Boil Mix
- Boil live crabs for 10 minutes or until the blue shell turns red.
- Drain and serve.
- Mix a sauce with mayonnaise, a bit of ketchup for color , some Sriracha, a squeeze of lime juice, and dash of fish sauce.
- Cover the table with newspaper
- Get Ready to get messy
- Be patient, it’s not a race
- Enjoy and savor the delicacy of the sea