Callinectes sapidus, a Latin name for the Chesapeake Blue Crab, describes the delicacy as “beautiful swimmers.” They certainly are beautiful to watch as they navigate through the water and the color of their shell changes back and forth between different shades of blue and green.
My favorite color of the Chesapeake Blue Crab would be red, with orange highlights. This is what the crab looks like after it has been steamed, and coated in seasoning, ready to be picked and dipped into butter or vinegar. In the state of Maryland, we have our crab recipes down to a science, and the family behind The Crab Shack in Crofton and Edgewater have been perfecting their family recipes for over 30 years.
Throughout time, settlers and our great ancestors must have gone through a lot of trial and error while learning how to eat crab. By simply looking at it, I would never be inclined to say, “Now that sucker must be good eating!” There is nothing appealing about the Blue Crab in its live form. Luckily, they figured it out for us. In 1880, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book and Marketing Guide were printed. Included in the cookbook was an early recipe for soft shell crabs, a true delicacy. During the molting process, the crab grows and has to form a new shell. This is when soft shell crabs are available. The crab is rinsed and cleaned, dipped in egg wash, dusted in fine bread or cracker crumbs, and fried in boiling fat.
In the early 1900s, Baltimore started to flourish, becoming a cosmopolitan city with a sophisticated patron looking for ways to enjoy their blue crab without making a mess. It is this period where recipes for Baltimore Crab Cakes started appearing. Eat, Drink & Be Merry in Maryland: An Anthology from a Great Tradition, was published in 1932 with a crab cake recipe, and in 1939 the Blue Crab and the Baltimore Crab Cake were introduced to the world in the New York World’s Fair Cook Book.
I give thanks for these trendsetting recipes that inspired generations of chefs for years and years, each with their own little pieces of flair that they like to add to their recipe. The recipe perfected at The Crab Shack in Crofton and Edgewater will keep you coming back for more. For more information, please visit www.thecrabshackmd.com.