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How to Eat Maryland Crab

How to Eat Maryland Crab


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Picking a blue crab can be quite intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing. How exactly are you supposed to get at the meat, and where exactly in the crab is it? Well, have no fear: here’s a step-by-step guide to picking a crab, courtesy of Hammer & Claws founder Joshua Morgan.

1. Remove the Legs
Pop off the small legs, suck the little nubs of meat off the ends of them if you like, and discard. Pull the claws off as well, and set those on the side for now.

2. Crack it Open
Grab hold of the crab from the rear, with your two thumbs on the shell and body, and crack it open like a book, separating the top shell, which you can discard (for die-hards, there are some juices in there you can scoop out).

3. Clean it Off
Looking at the crab, you’ll be able to tell right away what’s edible and what’s not. The feathery things on the side are the gills, which you should strip off. Anything that’s not meat can go, and there won’t be too much of it exposed right now.

4. Crack it Open Again
What you’re left with should be a little white bottom shell, with pockets on either side filled with meat. Hold it firmly with both hands and crack that in half down the middle.

5. Get Pickin’
Meat from the big pockets is the best part of the crab, the fabled jumbo lump. You’ve just got to get in there and extract as much meat from the shell as you can. You can eat it as you go or pile it up on the side, but make sure that you give it a drag through some Old Bay before you eat it.

6. The Claws
You can bang the claw with a mallet to get at the meat, but Morgan advises placing a knife high up on the claw, near the pincer, then hitting that with the mallet, in order to make a clean break. Then carefully pull the claw meat out, and scrape the meat off with your teeth.


Old-school crab recipes

For many Marylanders, there is no more perfect meal than a pile of steamed crabs or a well-made crab cake (light on filler, please).

These straightforward crab preparations are everywhere: on restaurant menus and backyard tables, especially in the summer months. Their simplicity shows off crabmeat's sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture.

But Maryland's crabby culinary history runs deeper than newspaper-covered tables and piles of discarded shells. Not long ago, restaurant menus listed numerous crab dishes, and home cooks were familiar with dozens of ways to incorporate crabs into meals, from casseroles to imperials.

Today, those old-fashioned crab preparations might not be front and center, but they're still hanging on, thanks to a handful of local restaurants and community cookbooks that make it a point to preserve the past.

After spending years collecting recipes all over the region, Whitey Schmidt published his ode to the cooked crustacean, "The Crab Cookbook," in 1990.

Schmidt's interest in crab recipes was piqued after years of picking crabs with his eight brothers and five sisters in the South River near Annapolis during the 1940s and '50s.

"As kids, we were chicken-neckers. [There was] a pier not too far from us and we would head down, sometimes two or three days a week," he said." We'd have a piece of string about 12 to15 feet long which we would tie to a nail or the end of a pier — wherever we could secure it. The idea was you'd simply tie on a chicken neck or wing and throw it into the water. Since it was tied, all we had to do was watch the line. When the crab would bite it, it would try to run home with it and pull the line straight out from the pier. So hand over hand, we would slowly pull in that line and the crabs would be nibbling away."

They frequently found themselves with a little extra crab meat after a marathon crabbing-and-picking session, and that opened the door to trying different recipes to use it up.

"It became a love of life for me," he says. "So I went out and spent five years eating in the crab houses of the Chesapeake in search of recipes. And now that's been my whole life for the last 30 or 40 years."

Schmidt has published six books on Chesapeake Bay-area cooking. "The Crab Cookbook" includes dozens of variations on traditional recipes: crab imperial, crab dip, crab soup, and more, including 33 recipes just for crab cakes. Everyone has their favorite crab cake or imperial, he says, and they're willing to share the recipes.

Most traditional crab dishes do not have a traceable history, but Schmidt believes they typically started in homes, not restaurants. Though he began his recipe search in bay-area restaurants, he seeks out home cook recipes whenever possible, talking with friends and family and searching for vintage cookbooks.

"Antique markets are full of used books," he explains. "I always spend an hour or two in the used-book section hoping I can find a cookbook from Smith Island or Tangier Island."

Junior League cookbooks are among those prized for their preservation of regional dishes.

"The national Junior League organization takes great pride in the cookbooks coming from different leagues," says Debbie Daugherty Richardson, a past president of the Junior League of Annapolis, which publishes two popular cookbooks of regional recipes, including traditional Maryland favorites like deviled crab and a variety of crab casseroles.

"Part of the pride comes from the tradition of sharing the recipes from generation to generation," she says.

When the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club published a 50th-anniversary cookbook in 2004, member Gail Smith contributed a crab casserole recipe she remembered from her youth.

"My mother was also a member of the garden club," she says. "The casserole came from my mother's cookbook. She used to make it when she had a big group. My daughter also has a couple recipes in the book — we keep it generational in there!"

Smith says when she cooks for family, she makes a lot of the dishes her mother made. "My kids like them and my grandchildren like them," she says.

Community cookbooks, thick with crab recipes, also help those without deep Baltimore roots quickly tap into the region's food culture.

Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club member Ande Williams grew up in New England, so she was unfamiliar with crab dishes when she moved to Baltimore in 1997. She uses her garden club cookbook for traditional crab recipes, like crab dip. "Cookbooks like this are great for old family recipes and local dishes," she explains.

Local cookbooks are a gold mine for old-school home cooking crab recipes, but certain dishes, like fried hard crab and crab fluff, are more frequently prepared in restaurant kitchens.

Gary Sanders, owner of CJ's Restaurant in Owings Mills, says the fried hard crab — a crab stuffed with crab meat, dipped in batter and deep-fried — has been on the CJ's menu for as long as he can remember. "It came from my mother and father," he explains. "Years ago, my dad used to go down to Duffy's and get a fried crab once a month. I think that's where the idea came from."

Sanders admits that the old-fashioned dish is mostly ordered by older customers. But, he says, when younger people try it, they love it.

At Pappas Restaurant in Parkville, traditional dishes like crab imperial are a hit with "young and old alike," says manager Justin Windle. (Windle's father-in-law, Mark Pappas, owns the restaurant).

"There's something about imperial," says Windle. "It's a hearty dish and has that old-school charm. It's a nice nostalgic dish." Crab imperial, he says, is the second-most-popular dish at Pappas — after crab cakes.

Imperial, like many old-fashioned crab recipes, incorporates fatty ingredients like mayonnaise and butter health concerns may be one reason these dishes have relinquished the spotlight.

"I try to cook healthier during the week," says Smith, of the garden club. Still, when she cooks for her family or friends, she pushes health concerns aside. "If I'm having an occasion with the family, I like to include something that's been in the family. Or if I'm having a dinner party. I cook more fattening food for a crowd!"

Even if they mean a few extra hours at the gym later, old favorite crab recipes should not be forgotten. They are part of the fabric of Chesapeake Bay culture and an important part of regional history.

And with sweet, delectable crab as a centerpiece, they are absolutely delicious.

Next week, we'll explore the world of soft shell crabs — what they are, what people love (and hate) about them, how to cook them and where to find them.

Mobjack Imperial Crab

Whitey Schmidt's "The Crab Cookbook" includes recipes for crab prepared nearly every way imaginable — including this classic take on crab imperial. "Crab imperial is just the dish for a warm summer's evening," writes Schmidt, recommending a light appetizer and fruit kabobs served alongside the crab. Recipe reprinted with permission.


Old-school crab recipes

For many Marylanders, there is no more perfect meal than a pile of steamed crabs or a well-made crab cake (light on filler, please).

These straightforward crab preparations are everywhere: on restaurant menus and backyard tables, especially in the summer months. Their simplicity shows off crabmeat's sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture.

But Maryland's crabby culinary history runs deeper than newspaper-covered tables and piles of discarded shells. Not long ago, restaurant menus listed numerous crab dishes, and home cooks were familiar with dozens of ways to incorporate crabs into meals, from casseroles to imperials.

Today, those old-fashioned crab preparations might not be front and center, but they're still hanging on, thanks to a handful of local restaurants and community cookbooks that make it a point to preserve the past.

After spending years collecting recipes all over the region, Whitey Schmidt published his ode to the cooked crustacean, "The Crab Cookbook," in 1990.

Schmidt's interest in crab recipes was piqued after years of picking crabs with his eight brothers and five sisters in the South River near Annapolis during the 1940s and '50s.

"As kids, we were chicken-neckers. [There was] a pier not too far from us and we would head down, sometimes two or three days a week," he said." We'd have a piece of string about 12 to15 feet long which we would tie to a nail or the end of a pier — wherever we could secure it. The idea was you'd simply tie on a chicken neck or wing and throw it into the water. Since it was tied, all we had to do was watch the line. When the crab would bite it, it would try to run home with it and pull the line straight out from the pier. So hand over hand, we would slowly pull in that line and the crabs would be nibbling away."

They frequently found themselves with a little extra crab meat after a marathon crabbing-and-picking session, and that opened the door to trying different recipes to use it up.

"It became a love of life for me," he says. "So I went out and spent five years eating in the crab houses of the Chesapeake in search of recipes. And now that's been my whole life for the last 30 or 40 years."

Schmidt has published six books on Chesapeake Bay-area cooking. "The Crab Cookbook" includes dozens of variations on traditional recipes: crab imperial, crab dip, crab soup, and more, including 33 recipes just for crab cakes. Everyone has their favorite crab cake or imperial, he says, and they're willing to share the recipes.

Most traditional crab dishes do not have a traceable history, but Schmidt believes they typically started in homes, not restaurants. Though he began his recipe search in bay-area restaurants, he seeks out home cook recipes whenever possible, talking with friends and family and searching for vintage cookbooks.

"Antique markets are full of used books," he explains. "I always spend an hour or two in the used-book section hoping I can find a cookbook from Smith Island or Tangier Island."

Junior League cookbooks are among those prized for their preservation of regional dishes.

"The national Junior League organization takes great pride in the cookbooks coming from different leagues," says Debbie Daugherty Richardson, a past president of the Junior League of Annapolis, which publishes two popular cookbooks of regional recipes, including traditional Maryland favorites like deviled crab and a variety of crab casseroles.

"Part of the pride comes from the tradition of sharing the recipes from generation to generation," she says.

When the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club published a 50th-anniversary cookbook in 2004, member Gail Smith contributed a crab casserole recipe she remembered from her youth.

"My mother was also a member of the garden club," she says. "The casserole came from my mother's cookbook. She used to make it when she had a big group. My daughter also has a couple recipes in the book — we keep it generational in there!"

Smith says when she cooks for family, she makes a lot of the dishes her mother made. "My kids like them and my grandchildren like them," she says.

Community cookbooks, thick with crab recipes, also help those without deep Baltimore roots quickly tap into the region's food culture.

Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club member Ande Williams grew up in New England, so she was unfamiliar with crab dishes when she moved to Baltimore in 1997. She uses her garden club cookbook for traditional crab recipes, like crab dip. "Cookbooks like this are great for old family recipes and local dishes," she explains.

Local cookbooks are a gold mine for old-school home cooking crab recipes, but certain dishes, like fried hard crab and crab fluff, are more frequently prepared in restaurant kitchens.

Gary Sanders, owner of CJ's Restaurant in Owings Mills, says the fried hard crab — a crab stuffed with crab meat, dipped in batter and deep-fried — has been on the CJ's menu for as long as he can remember. "It came from my mother and father," he explains. "Years ago, my dad used to go down to Duffy's and get a fried crab once a month. I think that's where the idea came from."

Sanders admits that the old-fashioned dish is mostly ordered by older customers. But, he says, when younger people try it, they love it.

At Pappas Restaurant in Parkville, traditional dishes like crab imperial are a hit with "young and old alike," says manager Justin Windle. (Windle's father-in-law, Mark Pappas, owns the restaurant).

"There's something about imperial," says Windle. "It's a hearty dish and has that old-school charm. It's a nice nostalgic dish." Crab imperial, he says, is the second-most-popular dish at Pappas — after crab cakes.

Imperial, like many old-fashioned crab recipes, incorporates fatty ingredients like mayonnaise and butter health concerns may be one reason these dishes have relinquished the spotlight.

"I try to cook healthier during the week," says Smith, of the garden club. Still, when she cooks for her family or friends, she pushes health concerns aside. "If I'm having an occasion with the family, I like to include something that's been in the family. Or if I'm having a dinner party. I cook more fattening food for a crowd!"

Even if they mean a few extra hours at the gym later, old favorite crab recipes should not be forgotten. They are part of the fabric of Chesapeake Bay culture and an important part of regional history.

And with sweet, delectable crab as a centerpiece, they are absolutely delicious.

Next week, we'll explore the world of soft shell crabs — what they are, what people love (and hate) about them, how to cook them and where to find them.

Mobjack Imperial Crab

Whitey Schmidt's "The Crab Cookbook" includes recipes for crab prepared nearly every way imaginable — including this classic take on crab imperial. "Crab imperial is just the dish for a warm summer's evening," writes Schmidt, recommending a light appetizer and fruit kabobs served alongside the crab. Recipe reprinted with permission.


Old-school crab recipes

For many Marylanders, there is no more perfect meal than a pile of steamed crabs or a well-made crab cake (light on filler, please).

These straightforward crab preparations are everywhere: on restaurant menus and backyard tables, especially in the summer months. Their simplicity shows off crabmeat's sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture.

But Maryland's crabby culinary history runs deeper than newspaper-covered tables and piles of discarded shells. Not long ago, restaurant menus listed numerous crab dishes, and home cooks were familiar with dozens of ways to incorporate crabs into meals, from casseroles to imperials.

Today, those old-fashioned crab preparations might not be front and center, but they're still hanging on, thanks to a handful of local restaurants and community cookbooks that make it a point to preserve the past.

After spending years collecting recipes all over the region, Whitey Schmidt published his ode to the cooked crustacean, "The Crab Cookbook," in 1990.

Schmidt's interest in crab recipes was piqued after years of picking crabs with his eight brothers and five sisters in the South River near Annapolis during the 1940s and '50s.

"As kids, we were chicken-neckers. [There was] a pier not too far from us and we would head down, sometimes two or three days a week," he said." We'd have a piece of string about 12 to15 feet long which we would tie to a nail or the end of a pier — wherever we could secure it. The idea was you'd simply tie on a chicken neck or wing and throw it into the water. Since it was tied, all we had to do was watch the line. When the crab would bite it, it would try to run home with it and pull the line straight out from the pier. So hand over hand, we would slowly pull in that line and the crabs would be nibbling away."

They frequently found themselves with a little extra crab meat after a marathon crabbing-and-picking session, and that opened the door to trying different recipes to use it up.

"It became a love of life for me," he says. "So I went out and spent five years eating in the crab houses of the Chesapeake in search of recipes. And now that's been my whole life for the last 30 or 40 years."

Schmidt has published six books on Chesapeake Bay-area cooking. "The Crab Cookbook" includes dozens of variations on traditional recipes: crab imperial, crab dip, crab soup, and more, including 33 recipes just for crab cakes. Everyone has their favorite crab cake or imperial, he says, and they're willing to share the recipes.

Most traditional crab dishes do not have a traceable history, but Schmidt believes they typically started in homes, not restaurants. Though he began his recipe search in bay-area restaurants, he seeks out home cook recipes whenever possible, talking with friends and family and searching for vintage cookbooks.

"Antique markets are full of used books," he explains. "I always spend an hour or two in the used-book section hoping I can find a cookbook from Smith Island or Tangier Island."

Junior League cookbooks are among those prized for their preservation of regional dishes.

"The national Junior League organization takes great pride in the cookbooks coming from different leagues," says Debbie Daugherty Richardson, a past president of the Junior League of Annapolis, which publishes two popular cookbooks of regional recipes, including traditional Maryland favorites like deviled crab and a variety of crab casseroles.

"Part of the pride comes from the tradition of sharing the recipes from generation to generation," she says.

When the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club published a 50th-anniversary cookbook in 2004, member Gail Smith contributed a crab casserole recipe she remembered from her youth.

"My mother was also a member of the garden club," she says. "The casserole came from my mother's cookbook. She used to make it when she had a big group. My daughter also has a couple recipes in the book — we keep it generational in there!"

Smith says when she cooks for family, she makes a lot of the dishes her mother made. "My kids like them and my grandchildren like them," she says.

Community cookbooks, thick with crab recipes, also help those without deep Baltimore roots quickly tap into the region's food culture.

Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club member Ande Williams grew up in New England, so she was unfamiliar with crab dishes when she moved to Baltimore in 1997. She uses her garden club cookbook for traditional crab recipes, like crab dip. "Cookbooks like this are great for old family recipes and local dishes," she explains.

Local cookbooks are a gold mine for old-school home cooking crab recipes, but certain dishes, like fried hard crab and crab fluff, are more frequently prepared in restaurant kitchens.

Gary Sanders, owner of CJ's Restaurant in Owings Mills, says the fried hard crab — a crab stuffed with crab meat, dipped in batter and deep-fried — has been on the CJ's menu for as long as he can remember. "It came from my mother and father," he explains. "Years ago, my dad used to go down to Duffy's and get a fried crab once a month. I think that's where the idea came from."

Sanders admits that the old-fashioned dish is mostly ordered by older customers. But, he says, when younger people try it, they love it.

At Pappas Restaurant in Parkville, traditional dishes like crab imperial are a hit with "young and old alike," says manager Justin Windle. (Windle's father-in-law, Mark Pappas, owns the restaurant).

"There's something about imperial," says Windle. "It's a hearty dish and has that old-school charm. It's a nice nostalgic dish." Crab imperial, he says, is the second-most-popular dish at Pappas — after crab cakes.

Imperial, like many old-fashioned crab recipes, incorporates fatty ingredients like mayonnaise and butter health concerns may be one reason these dishes have relinquished the spotlight.

"I try to cook healthier during the week," says Smith, of the garden club. Still, when she cooks for her family or friends, she pushes health concerns aside. "If I'm having an occasion with the family, I like to include something that's been in the family. Or if I'm having a dinner party. I cook more fattening food for a crowd!"

Even if they mean a few extra hours at the gym later, old favorite crab recipes should not be forgotten. They are part of the fabric of Chesapeake Bay culture and an important part of regional history.

And with sweet, delectable crab as a centerpiece, they are absolutely delicious.

Next week, we'll explore the world of soft shell crabs — what they are, what people love (and hate) about them, how to cook them and where to find them.

Mobjack Imperial Crab

Whitey Schmidt's "The Crab Cookbook" includes recipes for crab prepared nearly every way imaginable — including this classic take on crab imperial. "Crab imperial is just the dish for a warm summer's evening," writes Schmidt, recommending a light appetizer and fruit kabobs served alongside the crab. Recipe reprinted with permission.


Old-school crab recipes

For many Marylanders, there is no more perfect meal than a pile of steamed crabs or a well-made crab cake (light on filler, please).

These straightforward crab preparations are everywhere: on restaurant menus and backyard tables, especially in the summer months. Their simplicity shows off crabmeat's sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture.

But Maryland's crabby culinary history runs deeper than newspaper-covered tables and piles of discarded shells. Not long ago, restaurant menus listed numerous crab dishes, and home cooks were familiar with dozens of ways to incorporate crabs into meals, from casseroles to imperials.

Today, those old-fashioned crab preparations might not be front and center, but they're still hanging on, thanks to a handful of local restaurants and community cookbooks that make it a point to preserve the past.

After spending years collecting recipes all over the region, Whitey Schmidt published his ode to the cooked crustacean, "The Crab Cookbook," in 1990.

Schmidt's interest in crab recipes was piqued after years of picking crabs with his eight brothers and five sisters in the South River near Annapolis during the 1940s and '50s.

"As kids, we were chicken-neckers. [There was] a pier not too far from us and we would head down, sometimes two or three days a week," he said." We'd have a piece of string about 12 to15 feet long which we would tie to a nail or the end of a pier — wherever we could secure it. The idea was you'd simply tie on a chicken neck or wing and throw it into the water. Since it was tied, all we had to do was watch the line. When the crab would bite it, it would try to run home with it and pull the line straight out from the pier. So hand over hand, we would slowly pull in that line and the crabs would be nibbling away."

They frequently found themselves with a little extra crab meat after a marathon crabbing-and-picking session, and that opened the door to trying different recipes to use it up.

"It became a love of life for me," he says. "So I went out and spent five years eating in the crab houses of the Chesapeake in search of recipes. And now that's been my whole life for the last 30 or 40 years."

Schmidt has published six books on Chesapeake Bay-area cooking. "The Crab Cookbook" includes dozens of variations on traditional recipes: crab imperial, crab dip, crab soup, and more, including 33 recipes just for crab cakes. Everyone has their favorite crab cake or imperial, he says, and they're willing to share the recipes.

Most traditional crab dishes do not have a traceable history, but Schmidt believes they typically started in homes, not restaurants. Though he began his recipe search in bay-area restaurants, he seeks out home cook recipes whenever possible, talking with friends and family and searching for vintage cookbooks.

"Antique markets are full of used books," he explains. "I always spend an hour or two in the used-book section hoping I can find a cookbook from Smith Island or Tangier Island."

Junior League cookbooks are among those prized for their preservation of regional dishes.

"The national Junior League organization takes great pride in the cookbooks coming from different leagues," says Debbie Daugherty Richardson, a past president of the Junior League of Annapolis, which publishes two popular cookbooks of regional recipes, including traditional Maryland favorites like deviled crab and a variety of crab casseroles.

"Part of the pride comes from the tradition of sharing the recipes from generation to generation," she says.

When the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club published a 50th-anniversary cookbook in 2004, member Gail Smith contributed a crab casserole recipe she remembered from her youth.

"My mother was also a member of the garden club," she says. "The casserole came from my mother's cookbook. She used to make it when she had a big group. My daughter also has a couple recipes in the book — we keep it generational in there!"

Smith says when she cooks for family, she makes a lot of the dishes her mother made. "My kids like them and my grandchildren like them," she says.

Community cookbooks, thick with crab recipes, also help those without deep Baltimore roots quickly tap into the region's food culture.

Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club member Ande Williams grew up in New England, so she was unfamiliar with crab dishes when she moved to Baltimore in 1997. She uses her garden club cookbook for traditional crab recipes, like crab dip. "Cookbooks like this are great for old family recipes and local dishes," she explains.

Local cookbooks are a gold mine for old-school home cooking crab recipes, but certain dishes, like fried hard crab and crab fluff, are more frequently prepared in restaurant kitchens.

Gary Sanders, owner of CJ's Restaurant in Owings Mills, says the fried hard crab — a crab stuffed with crab meat, dipped in batter and deep-fried — has been on the CJ's menu for as long as he can remember. "It came from my mother and father," he explains. "Years ago, my dad used to go down to Duffy's and get a fried crab once a month. I think that's where the idea came from."

Sanders admits that the old-fashioned dish is mostly ordered by older customers. But, he says, when younger people try it, they love it.

At Pappas Restaurant in Parkville, traditional dishes like crab imperial are a hit with "young and old alike," says manager Justin Windle. (Windle's father-in-law, Mark Pappas, owns the restaurant).

"There's something about imperial," says Windle. "It's a hearty dish and has that old-school charm. It's a nice nostalgic dish." Crab imperial, he says, is the second-most-popular dish at Pappas — after crab cakes.

Imperial, like many old-fashioned crab recipes, incorporates fatty ingredients like mayonnaise and butter health concerns may be one reason these dishes have relinquished the spotlight.

"I try to cook healthier during the week," says Smith, of the garden club. Still, when she cooks for her family or friends, she pushes health concerns aside. "If I'm having an occasion with the family, I like to include something that's been in the family. Or if I'm having a dinner party. I cook more fattening food for a crowd!"

Even if they mean a few extra hours at the gym later, old favorite crab recipes should not be forgotten. They are part of the fabric of Chesapeake Bay culture and an important part of regional history.

And with sweet, delectable crab as a centerpiece, they are absolutely delicious.

Next week, we'll explore the world of soft shell crabs — what they are, what people love (and hate) about them, how to cook them and where to find them.

Mobjack Imperial Crab

Whitey Schmidt's "The Crab Cookbook" includes recipes for crab prepared nearly every way imaginable — including this classic take on crab imperial. "Crab imperial is just the dish for a warm summer's evening," writes Schmidt, recommending a light appetizer and fruit kabobs served alongside the crab. Recipe reprinted with permission.


Old-school crab recipes

For many Marylanders, there is no more perfect meal than a pile of steamed crabs or a well-made crab cake (light on filler, please).

These straightforward crab preparations are everywhere: on restaurant menus and backyard tables, especially in the summer months. Their simplicity shows off crabmeat's sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture.

But Maryland's crabby culinary history runs deeper than newspaper-covered tables and piles of discarded shells. Not long ago, restaurant menus listed numerous crab dishes, and home cooks were familiar with dozens of ways to incorporate crabs into meals, from casseroles to imperials.

Today, those old-fashioned crab preparations might not be front and center, but they're still hanging on, thanks to a handful of local restaurants and community cookbooks that make it a point to preserve the past.

After spending years collecting recipes all over the region, Whitey Schmidt published his ode to the cooked crustacean, "The Crab Cookbook," in 1990.

Schmidt's interest in crab recipes was piqued after years of picking crabs with his eight brothers and five sisters in the South River near Annapolis during the 1940s and '50s.

"As kids, we were chicken-neckers. [There was] a pier not too far from us and we would head down, sometimes two or three days a week," he said." We'd have a piece of string about 12 to15 feet long which we would tie to a nail or the end of a pier — wherever we could secure it. The idea was you'd simply tie on a chicken neck or wing and throw it into the water. Since it was tied, all we had to do was watch the line. When the crab would bite it, it would try to run home with it and pull the line straight out from the pier. So hand over hand, we would slowly pull in that line and the crabs would be nibbling away."

They frequently found themselves with a little extra crab meat after a marathon crabbing-and-picking session, and that opened the door to trying different recipes to use it up.

"It became a love of life for me," he says. "So I went out and spent five years eating in the crab houses of the Chesapeake in search of recipes. And now that's been my whole life for the last 30 or 40 years."

Schmidt has published six books on Chesapeake Bay-area cooking. "The Crab Cookbook" includes dozens of variations on traditional recipes: crab imperial, crab dip, crab soup, and more, including 33 recipes just for crab cakes. Everyone has their favorite crab cake or imperial, he says, and they're willing to share the recipes.

Most traditional crab dishes do not have a traceable history, but Schmidt believes they typically started in homes, not restaurants. Though he began his recipe search in bay-area restaurants, he seeks out home cook recipes whenever possible, talking with friends and family and searching for vintage cookbooks.

"Antique markets are full of used books," he explains. "I always spend an hour or two in the used-book section hoping I can find a cookbook from Smith Island or Tangier Island."

Junior League cookbooks are among those prized for their preservation of regional dishes.

"The national Junior League organization takes great pride in the cookbooks coming from different leagues," says Debbie Daugherty Richardson, a past president of the Junior League of Annapolis, which publishes two popular cookbooks of regional recipes, including traditional Maryland favorites like deviled crab and a variety of crab casseroles.

"Part of the pride comes from the tradition of sharing the recipes from generation to generation," she says.

When the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club published a 50th-anniversary cookbook in 2004, member Gail Smith contributed a crab casserole recipe she remembered from her youth.

"My mother was also a member of the garden club," she says. "The casserole came from my mother's cookbook. She used to make it when she had a big group. My daughter also has a couple recipes in the book — we keep it generational in there!"

Smith says when she cooks for family, she makes a lot of the dishes her mother made. "My kids like them and my grandchildren like them," she says.

Community cookbooks, thick with crab recipes, also help those without deep Baltimore roots quickly tap into the region's food culture.

Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club member Ande Williams grew up in New England, so she was unfamiliar with crab dishes when she moved to Baltimore in 1997. She uses her garden club cookbook for traditional crab recipes, like crab dip. "Cookbooks like this are great for old family recipes and local dishes," she explains.

Local cookbooks are a gold mine for old-school home cooking crab recipes, but certain dishes, like fried hard crab and crab fluff, are more frequently prepared in restaurant kitchens.

Gary Sanders, owner of CJ's Restaurant in Owings Mills, says the fried hard crab — a crab stuffed with crab meat, dipped in batter and deep-fried — has been on the CJ's menu for as long as he can remember. "It came from my mother and father," he explains. "Years ago, my dad used to go down to Duffy's and get a fried crab once a month. I think that's where the idea came from."

Sanders admits that the old-fashioned dish is mostly ordered by older customers. But, he says, when younger people try it, they love it.

At Pappas Restaurant in Parkville, traditional dishes like crab imperial are a hit with "young and old alike," says manager Justin Windle. (Windle's father-in-law, Mark Pappas, owns the restaurant).

"There's something about imperial," says Windle. "It's a hearty dish and has that old-school charm. It's a nice nostalgic dish." Crab imperial, he says, is the second-most-popular dish at Pappas — after crab cakes.

Imperial, like many old-fashioned crab recipes, incorporates fatty ingredients like mayonnaise and butter health concerns may be one reason these dishes have relinquished the spotlight.

"I try to cook healthier during the week," says Smith, of the garden club. Still, when she cooks for her family or friends, she pushes health concerns aside. "If I'm having an occasion with the family, I like to include something that's been in the family. Or if I'm having a dinner party. I cook more fattening food for a crowd!"

Even if they mean a few extra hours at the gym later, old favorite crab recipes should not be forgotten. They are part of the fabric of Chesapeake Bay culture and an important part of regional history.

And with sweet, delectable crab as a centerpiece, they are absolutely delicious.

Next week, we'll explore the world of soft shell crabs — what they are, what people love (and hate) about them, how to cook them and where to find them.

Mobjack Imperial Crab

Whitey Schmidt's "The Crab Cookbook" includes recipes for crab prepared nearly every way imaginable — including this classic take on crab imperial. "Crab imperial is just the dish for a warm summer's evening," writes Schmidt, recommending a light appetizer and fruit kabobs served alongside the crab. Recipe reprinted with permission.


Old-school crab recipes

For many Marylanders, there is no more perfect meal than a pile of steamed crabs or a well-made crab cake (light on filler, please).

These straightforward crab preparations are everywhere: on restaurant menus and backyard tables, especially in the summer months. Their simplicity shows off crabmeat's sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture.

But Maryland's crabby culinary history runs deeper than newspaper-covered tables and piles of discarded shells. Not long ago, restaurant menus listed numerous crab dishes, and home cooks were familiar with dozens of ways to incorporate crabs into meals, from casseroles to imperials.

Today, those old-fashioned crab preparations might not be front and center, but they're still hanging on, thanks to a handful of local restaurants and community cookbooks that make it a point to preserve the past.

After spending years collecting recipes all over the region, Whitey Schmidt published his ode to the cooked crustacean, "The Crab Cookbook," in 1990.

Schmidt's interest in crab recipes was piqued after years of picking crabs with his eight brothers and five sisters in the South River near Annapolis during the 1940s and '50s.

"As kids, we were chicken-neckers. [There was] a pier not too far from us and we would head down, sometimes two or three days a week," he said." We'd have a piece of string about 12 to15 feet long which we would tie to a nail or the end of a pier — wherever we could secure it. The idea was you'd simply tie on a chicken neck or wing and throw it into the water. Since it was tied, all we had to do was watch the line. When the crab would bite it, it would try to run home with it and pull the line straight out from the pier. So hand over hand, we would slowly pull in that line and the crabs would be nibbling away."

They frequently found themselves with a little extra crab meat after a marathon crabbing-and-picking session, and that opened the door to trying different recipes to use it up.

"It became a love of life for me," he says. "So I went out and spent five years eating in the crab houses of the Chesapeake in search of recipes. And now that's been my whole life for the last 30 or 40 years."

Schmidt has published six books on Chesapeake Bay-area cooking. "The Crab Cookbook" includes dozens of variations on traditional recipes: crab imperial, crab dip, crab soup, and more, including 33 recipes just for crab cakes. Everyone has their favorite crab cake or imperial, he says, and they're willing to share the recipes.

Most traditional crab dishes do not have a traceable history, but Schmidt believes they typically started in homes, not restaurants. Though he began his recipe search in bay-area restaurants, he seeks out home cook recipes whenever possible, talking with friends and family and searching for vintage cookbooks.

"Antique markets are full of used books," he explains. "I always spend an hour or two in the used-book section hoping I can find a cookbook from Smith Island or Tangier Island."

Junior League cookbooks are among those prized for their preservation of regional dishes.

"The national Junior League organization takes great pride in the cookbooks coming from different leagues," says Debbie Daugherty Richardson, a past president of the Junior League of Annapolis, which publishes two popular cookbooks of regional recipes, including traditional Maryland favorites like deviled crab and a variety of crab casseroles.

"Part of the pride comes from the tradition of sharing the recipes from generation to generation," she says.

When the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club published a 50th-anniversary cookbook in 2004, member Gail Smith contributed a crab casserole recipe she remembered from her youth.

"My mother was also a member of the garden club," she says. "The casserole came from my mother's cookbook. She used to make it when she had a big group. My daughter also has a couple recipes in the book — we keep it generational in there!"

Smith says when she cooks for family, she makes a lot of the dishes her mother made. "My kids like them and my grandchildren like them," she says.

Community cookbooks, thick with crab recipes, also help those without deep Baltimore roots quickly tap into the region's food culture.

Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club member Ande Williams grew up in New England, so she was unfamiliar with crab dishes when she moved to Baltimore in 1997. She uses her garden club cookbook for traditional crab recipes, like crab dip. "Cookbooks like this are great for old family recipes and local dishes," she explains.

Local cookbooks are a gold mine for old-school home cooking crab recipes, but certain dishes, like fried hard crab and crab fluff, are more frequently prepared in restaurant kitchens.

Gary Sanders, owner of CJ's Restaurant in Owings Mills, says the fried hard crab — a crab stuffed with crab meat, dipped in batter and deep-fried — has been on the CJ's menu for as long as he can remember. "It came from my mother and father," he explains. "Years ago, my dad used to go down to Duffy's and get a fried crab once a month. I think that's where the idea came from."

Sanders admits that the old-fashioned dish is mostly ordered by older customers. But, he says, when younger people try it, they love it.

At Pappas Restaurant in Parkville, traditional dishes like crab imperial are a hit with "young and old alike," says manager Justin Windle. (Windle's father-in-law, Mark Pappas, owns the restaurant).

"There's something about imperial," says Windle. "It's a hearty dish and has that old-school charm. It's a nice nostalgic dish." Crab imperial, he says, is the second-most-popular dish at Pappas — after crab cakes.

Imperial, like many old-fashioned crab recipes, incorporates fatty ingredients like mayonnaise and butter health concerns may be one reason these dishes have relinquished the spotlight.

"I try to cook healthier during the week," says Smith, of the garden club. Still, when she cooks for her family or friends, she pushes health concerns aside. "If I'm having an occasion with the family, I like to include something that's been in the family. Or if I'm having a dinner party. I cook more fattening food for a crowd!"

Even if they mean a few extra hours at the gym later, old favorite crab recipes should not be forgotten. They are part of the fabric of Chesapeake Bay culture and an important part of regional history.

And with sweet, delectable crab as a centerpiece, they are absolutely delicious.

Next week, we'll explore the world of soft shell crabs — what they are, what people love (and hate) about them, how to cook them and where to find them.

Mobjack Imperial Crab

Whitey Schmidt's "The Crab Cookbook" includes recipes for crab prepared nearly every way imaginable — including this classic take on crab imperial. "Crab imperial is just the dish for a warm summer's evening," writes Schmidt, recommending a light appetizer and fruit kabobs served alongside the crab. Recipe reprinted with permission.


Old-school crab recipes

For many Marylanders, there is no more perfect meal than a pile of steamed crabs or a well-made crab cake (light on filler, please).

These straightforward crab preparations are everywhere: on restaurant menus and backyard tables, especially in the summer months. Their simplicity shows off crabmeat's sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture.

But Maryland's crabby culinary history runs deeper than newspaper-covered tables and piles of discarded shells. Not long ago, restaurant menus listed numerous crab dishes, and home cooks were familiar with dozens of ways to incorporate crabs into meals, from casseroles to imperials.

Today, those old-fashioned crab preparations might not be front and center, but they're still hanging on, thanks to a handful of local restaurants and community cookbooks that make it a point to preserve the past.

After spending years collecting recipes all over the region, Whitey Schmidt published his ode to the cooked crustacean, "The Crab Cookbook," in 1990.

Schmidt's interest in crab recipes was piqued after years of picking crabs with his eight brothers and five sisters in the South River near Annapolis during the 1940s and '50s.

"As kids, we were chicken-neckers. [There was] a pier not too far from us and we would head down, sometimes two or three days a week," he said." We'd have a piece of string about 12 to15 feet long which we would tie to a nail or the end of a pier — wherever we could secure it. The idea was you'd simply tie on a chicken neck or wing and throw it into the water. Since it was tied, all we had to do was watch the line. When the crab would bite it, it would try to run home with it and pull the line straight out from the pier. So hand over hand, we would slowly pull in that line and the crabs would be nibbling away."

They frequently found themselves with a little extra crab meat after a marathon crabbing-and-picking session, and that opened the door to trying different recipes to use it up.

"It became a love of life for me," he says. "So I went out and spent five years eating in the crab houses of the Chesapeake in search of recipes. And now that's been my whole life for the last 30 or 40 years."

Schmidt has published six books on Chesapeake Bay-area cooking. "The Crab Cookbook" includes dozens of variations on traditional recipes: crab imperial, crab dip, crab soup, and more, including 33 recipes just for crab cakes. Everyone has their favorite crab cake or imperial, he says, and they're willing to share the recipes.

Most traditional crab dishes do not have a traceable history, but Schmidt believes they typically started in homes, not restaurants. Though he began his recipe search in bay-area restaurants, he seeks out home cook recipes whenever possible, talking with friends and family and searching for vintage cookbooks.

"Antique markets are full of used books," he explains. "I always spend an hour or two in the used-book section hoping I can find a cookbook from Smith Island or Tangier Island."

Junior League cookbooks are among those prized for their preservation of regional dishes.

"The national Junior League organization takes great pride in the cookbooks coming from different leagues," says Debbie Daugherty Richardson, a past president of the Junior League of Annapolis, which publishes two popular cookbooks of regional recipes, including traditional Maryland favorites like deviled crab and a variety of crab casseroles.

"Part of the pride comes from the tradition of sharing the recipes from generation to generation," she says.

When the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club published a 50th-anniversary cookbook in 2004, member Gail Smith contributed a crab casserole recipe she remembered from her youth.

"My mother was also a member of the garden club," she says. "The casserole came from my mother's cookbook. She used to make it when she had a big group. My daughter also has a couple recipes in the book — we keep it generational in there!"

Smith says when she cooks for family, she makes a lot of the dishes her mother made. "My kids like them and my grandchildren like them," she says.

Community cookbooks, thick with crab recipes, also help those without deep Baltimore roots quickly tap into the region's food culture.

Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club member Ande Williams grew up in New England, so she was unfamiliar with crab dishes when she moved to Baltimore in 1997. She uses her garden club cookbook for traditional crab recipes, like crab dip. "Cookbooks like this are great for old family recipes and local dishes," she explains.

Local cookbooks are a gold mine for old-school home cooking crab recipes, but certain dishes, like fried hard crab and crab fluff, are more frequently prepared in restaurant kitchens.

Gary Sanders, owner of CJ's Restaurant in Owings Mills, says the fried hard crab — a crab stuffed with crab meat, dipped in batter and deep-fried — has been on the CJ's menu for as long as he can remember. "It came from my mother and father," he explains. "Years ago, my dad used to go down to Duffy's and get a fried crab once a month. I think that's where the idea came from."

Sanders admits that the old-fashioned dish is mostly ordered by older customers. But, he says, when younger people try it, they love it.

At Pappas Restaurant in Parkville, traditional dishes like crab imperial are a hit with "young and old alike," says manager Justin Windle. (Windle's father-in-law, Mark Pappas, owns the restaurant).

"There's something about imperial," says Windle. "It's a hearty dish and has that old-school charm. It's a nice nostalgic dish." Crab imperial, he says, is the second-most-popular dish at Pappas — after crab cakes.

Imperial, like many old-fashioned crab recipes, incorporates fatty ingredients like mayonnaise and butter health concerns may be one reason these dishes have relinquished the spotlight.

"I try to cook healthier during the week," says Smith, of the garden club. Still, when she cooks for her family or friends, she pushes health concerns aside. "If I'm having an occasion with the family, I like to include something that's been in the family. Or if I'm having a dinner party. I cook more fattening food for a crowd!"

Even if they mean a few extra hours at the gym later, old favorite crab recipes should not be forgotten. They are part of the fabric of Chesapeake Bay culture and an important part of regional history.

And with sweet, delectable crab as a centerpiece, they are absolutely delicious.

Next week, we'll explore the world of soft shell crabs — what they are, what people love (and hate) about them, how to cook them and where to find them.

Mobjack Imperial Crab

Whitey Schmidt's "The Crab Cookbook" includes recipes for crab prepared nearly every way imaginable — including this classic take on crab imperial. "Crab imperial is just the dish for a warm summer's evening," writes Schmidt, recommending a light appetizer and fruit kabobs served alongside the crab. Recipe reprinted with permission.


Old-school crab recipes

For many Marylanders, there is no more perfect meal than a pile of steamed crabs or a well-made crab cake (light on filler, please).

These straightforward crab preparations are everywhere: on restaurant menus and backyard tables, especially in the summer months. Their simplicity shows off crabmeat's sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture.

But Maryland's crabby culinary history runs deeper than newspaper-covered tables and piles of discarded shells. Not long ago, restaurant menus listed numerous crab dishes, and home cooks were familiar with dozens of ways to incorporate crabs into meals, from casseroles to imperials.

Today, those old-fashioned crab preparations might not be front and center, but they're still hanging on, thanks to a handful of local restaurants and community cookbooks that make it a point to preserve the past.

After spending years collecting recipes all over the region, Whitey Schmidt published his ode to the cooked crustacean, "The Crab Cookbook," in 1990.

Schmidt's interest in crab recipes was piqued after years of picking crabs with his eight brothers and five sisters in the South River near Annapolis during the 1940s and '50s.

"As kids, we were chicken-neckers. [There was] a pier not too far from us and we would head down, sometimes two or three days a week," he said." We'd have a piece of string about 12 to15 feet long which we would tie to a nail or the end of a pier — wherever we could secure it. The idea was you'd simply tie on a chicken neck or wing and throw it into the water. Since it was tied, all we had to do was watch the line. When the crab would bite it, it would try to run home with it and pull the line straight out from the pier. So hand over hand, we would slowly pull in that line and the crabs would be nibbling away."

They frequently found themselves with a little extra crab meat after a marathon crabbing-and-picking session, and that opened the door to trying different recipes to use it up.

"It became a love of life for me," he says. "So I went out and spent five years eating in the crab houses of the Chesapeake in search of recipes. And now that's been my whole life for the last 30 or 40 years."

Schmidt has published six books on Chesapeake Bay-area cooking. "The Crab Cookbook" includes dozens of variations on traditional recipes: crab imperial, crab dip, crab soup, and more, including 33 recipes just for crab cakes. Everyone has their favorite crab cake or imperial, he says, and they're willing to share the recipes.

Most traditional crab dishes do not have a traceable history, but Schmidt believes they typically started in homes, not restaurants. Though he began his recipe search in bay-area restaurants, he seeks out home cook recipes whenever possible, talking with friends and family and searching for vintage cookbooks.

"Antique markets are full of used books," he explains. "I always spend an hour or two in the used-book section hoping I can find a cookbook from Smith Island or Tangier Island."

Junior League cookbooks are among those prized for their preservation of regional dishes.

"The national Junior League organization takes great pride in the cookbooks coming from different leagues," says Debbie Daugherty Richardson, a past president of the Junior League of Annapolis, which publishes two popular cookbooks of regional recipes, including traditional Maryland favorites like deviled crab and a variety of crab casseroles.

"Part of the pride comes from the tradition of sharing the recipes from generation to generation," she says.

When the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club published a 50th-anniversary cookbook in 2004, member Gail Smith contributed a crab casserole recipe she remembered from her youth.

"My mother was also a member of the garden club," she says. "The casserole came from my mother's cookbook. She used to make it when she had a big group. My daughter also has a couple recipes in the book — we keep it generational in there!"

Smith says when she cooks for family, she makes a lot of the dishes her mother made. "My kids like them and my grandchildren like them," she says.

Community cookbooks, thick with crab recipes, also help those without deep Baltimore roots quickly tap into the region's food culture.

Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club member Ande Williams grew up in New England, so she was unfamiliar with crab dishes when she moved to Baltimore in 1997. She uses her garden club cookbook for traditional crab recipes, like crab dip. "Cookbooks like this are great for old family recipes and local dishes," she explains.

Local cookbooks are a gold mine for old-school home cooking crab recipes, but certain dishes, like fried hard crab and crab fluff, are more frequently prepared in restaurant kitchens.

Gary Sanders, owner of CJ's Restaurant in Owings Mills, says the fried hard crab — a crab stuffed with crab meat, dipped in batter and deep-fried — has been on the CJ's menu for as long as he can remember. "It came from my mother and father," he explains. "Years ago, my dad used to go down to Duffy's and get a fried crab once a month. I think that's where the idea came from."

Sanders admits that the old-fashioned dish is mostly ordered by older customers. But, he says, when younger people try it, they love it.

At Pappas Restaurant in Parkville, traditional dishes like crab imperial are a hit with "young and old alike," says manager Justin Windle. (Windle's father-in-law, Mark Pappas, owns the restaurant).

"There's something about imperial," says Windle. "It's a hearty dish and has that old-school charm. It's a nice nostalgic dish." Crab imperial, he says, is the second-most-popular dish at Pappas — after crab cakes.

Imperial, like many old-fashioned crab recipes, incorporates fatty ingredients like mayonnaise and butter health concerns may be one reason these dishes have relinquished the spotlight.

"I try to cook healthier during the week," says Smith, of the garden club. Still, when she cooks for her family or friends, she pushes health concerns aside. "If I'm having an occasion with the family, I like to include something that's been in the family. Or if I'm having a dinner party. I cook more fattening food for a crowd!"

Even if they mean a few extra hours at the gym later, old favorite crab recipes should not be forgotten. They are part of the fabric of Chesapeake Bay culture and an important part of regional history.

And with sweet, delectable crab as a centerpiece, they are absolutely delicious.

Next week, we'll explore the world of soft shell crabs — what they are, what people love (and hate) about them, how to cook them and where to find them.

Mobjack Imperial Crab

Whitey Schmidt's "The Crab Cookbook" includes recipes for crab prepared nearly every way imaginable — including this classic take on crab imperial. "Crab imperial is just the dish for a warm summer's evening," writes Schmidt, recommending a light appetizer and fruit kabobs served alongside the crab. Recipe reprinted with permission.


Old-school crab recipes

For many Marylanders, there is no more perfect meal than a pile of steamed crabs or a well-made crab cake (light on filler, please).

These straightforward crab preparations are everywhere: on restaurant menus and backyard tables, especially in the summer months. Their simplicity shows off crabmeat's sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture.

But Maryland's crabby culinary history runs deeper than newspaper-covered tables and piles of discarded shells. Not long ago, restaurant menus listed numerous crab dishes, and home cooks were familiar with dozens of ways to incorporate crabs into meals, from casseroles to imperials.

Today, those old-fashioned crab preparations might not be front and center, but they're still hanging on, thanks to a handful of local restaurants and community cookbooks that make it a point to preserve the past.

After spending years collecting recipes all over the region, Whitey Schmidt published his ode to the cooked crustacean, "The Crab Cookbook," in 1990.

Schmidt's interest in crab recipes was piqued after years of picking crabs with his eight brothers and five sisters in the South River near Annapolis during the 1940s and '50s.

"As kids, we were chicken-neckers. [There was] a pier not too far from us and we would head down, sometimes two or three days a week," he said." We'd have a piece of string about 12 to15 feet long which we would tie to a nail or the end of a pier — wherever we could secure it. The idea was you'd simply tie on a chicken neck or wing and throw it into the water. Since it was tied, all we had to do was watch the line. When the crab would bite it, it would try to run home with it and pull the line straight out from the pier. So hand over hand, we would slowly pull in that line and the crabs would be nibbling away."

They frequently found themselves with a little extra crab meat after a marathon crabbing-and-picking session, and that opened the door to trying different recipes to use it up.

"It became a love of life for me," he says. "So I went out and spent five years eating in the crab houses of the Chesapeake in search of recipes. And now that's been my whole life for the last 30 or 40 years."

Schmidt has published six books on Chesapeake Bay-area cooking. "The Crab Cookbook" includes dozens of variations on traditional recipes: crab imperial, crab dip, crab soup, and more, including 33 recipes just for crab cakes. Everyone has their favorite crab cake or imperial, he says, and they're willing to share the recipes.

Most traditional crab dishes do not have a traceable history, but Schmidt believes they typically started in homes, not restaurants. Though he began his recipe search in bay-area restaurants, he seeks out home cook recipes whenever possible, talking with friends and family and searching for vintage cookbooks.

"Antique markets are full of used books," he explains. "I always spend an hour or two in the used-book section hoping I can find a cookbook from Smith Island or Tangier Island."

Junior League cookbooks are among those prized for their preservation of regional dishes.

"The national Junior League organization takes great pride in the cookbooks coming from different leagues," says Debbie Daugherty Richardson, a past president of the Junior League of Annapolis, which publishes two popular cookbooks of regional recipes, including traditional Maryland favorites like deviled crab and a variety of crab casseroles.

"Part of the pride comes from the tradition of sharing the recipes from generation to generation," she says.

When the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club published a 50th-anniversary cookbook in 2004, member Gail Smith contributed a crab casserole recipe she remembered from her youth.

"My mother was also a member of the garden club," she says. "The casserole came from my mother's cookbook. She used to make it when she had a big group. My daughter also has a couple recipes in the book — we keep it generational in there!"

Smith says when she cooks for family, she makes a lot of the dishes her mother made. "My kids like them and my grandchildren like them," she says.

Community cookbooks, thick with crab recipes, also help those without deep Baltimore roots quickly tap into the region's food culture.

Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club member Ande Williams grew up in New England, so she was unfamiliar with crab dishes when she moved to Baltimore in 1997. She uses her garden club cookbook for traditional crab recipes, like crab dip. "Cookbooks like this are great for old family recipes and local dishes," she explains.

Local cookbooks are a gold mine for old-school home cooking crab recipes, but certain dishes, like fried hard crab and crab fluff, are more frequently prepared in restaurant kitchens.

Gary Sanders, owner of CJ's Restaurant in Owings Mills, says the fried hard crab — a crab stuffed with crab meat, dipped in batter and deep-fried — has been on the CJ's menu for as long as he can remember. "It came from my mother and father," he explains. "Years ago, my dad used to go down to Duffy's and get a fried crab once a month. I think that's where the idea came from."

Sanders admits that the old-fashioned dish is mostly ordered by older customers. But, he says, when younger people try it, they love it.

At Pappas Restaurant in Parkville, traditional dishes like crab imperial are a hit with "young and old alike," says manager Justin Windle. (Windle's father-in-law, Mark Pappas, owns the restaurant).

"There's something about imperial," says Windle. "It's a hearty dish and has that old-school charm. It's a nice nostalgic dish." Crab imperial, he says, is the second-most-popular dish at Pappas — after crab cakes.

Imperial, like many old-fashioned crab recipes, incorporates fatty ingredients like mayonnaise and butter health concerns may be one reason these dishes have relinquished the spotlight.

"I try to cook healthier during the week," says Smith, of the garden club. Still, when she cooks for her family or friends, she pushes health concerns aside. "If I'm having an occasion with the family, I like to include something that's been in the family. Or if I'm having a dinner party. I cook more fattening food for a crowd!"

Even if they mean a few extra hours at the gym later, old favorite crab recipes should not be forgotten. They are part of the fabric of Chesapeake Bay culture and an important part of regional history.

And with sweet, delectable crab as a centerpiece, they are absolutely delicious.

Next week, we'll explore the world of soft shell crabs — what they are, what people love (and hate) about them, how to cook them and where to find them.

Mobjack Imperial Crab

Whitey Schmidt's "The Crab Cookbook" includes recipes for crab prepared nearly every way imaginable — including this classic take on crab imperial. "Crab imperial is just the dish for a warm summer's evening," writes Schmidt, recommending a light appetizer and fruit kabobs served alongside the crab. Recipe reprinted with permission.


Old-school crab recipes

For many Marylanders, there is no more perfect meal than a pile of steamed crabs or a well-made crab cake (light on filler, please).

These straightforward crab preparations are everywhere: on restaurant menus and backyard tables, especially in the summer months. Their simplicity shows off crabmeat's sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture.

But Maryland's crabby culinary history runs deeper than newspaper-covered tables and piles of discarded shells. Not long ago, restaurant menus listed numerous crab dishes, and home cooks were familiar with dozens of ways to incorporate crabs into meals, from casseroles to imperials.

Today, those old-fashioned crab preparations might not be front and center, but they're still hanging on, thanks to a handful of local restaurants and community cookbooks that make it a point to preserve the past.

After spending years collecting recipes all over the region, Whitey Schmidt published his ode to the cooked crustacean, "The Crab Cookbook," in 1990.

Schmidt's interest in crab recipes was piqued after years of picking crabs with his eight brothers and five sisters in the South River near Annapolis during the 1940s and '50s.

"As kids, we were chicken-neckers. [There was] a pier not too far from us and we would head down, sometimes two or three days a week," he said." We'd have a piece of string about 12 to15 feet long which we would tie to a nail or the end of a pier — wherever we could secure it. The idea was you'd simply tie on a chicken neck or wing and throw it into the water. Since it was tied, all we had to do was watch the line. When the crab would bite it, it would try to run home with it and pull the line straight out from the pier. So hand over hand, we would slowly pull in that line and the crabs would be nibbling away."

They frequently found themselves with a little extra crab meat after a marathon crabbing-and-picking session, and that opened the door to trying different recipes to use it up.

"It became a love of life for me," he says. "So I went out and spent five years eating in the crab houses of the Chesapeake in search of recipes. And now that's been my whole life for the last 30 or 40 years."

Schmidt has published six books on Chesapeake Bay-area cooking. "The Crab Cookbook" includes dozens of variations on traditional recipes: crab imperial, crab dip, crab soup, and more, including 33 recipes just for crab cakes. Everyone has their favorite crab cake or imperial, he says, and they're willing to share the recipes.

Most traditional crab dishes do not have a traceable history, but Schmidt believes they typically started in homes, not restaurants. Though he began his recipe search in bay-area restaurants, he seeks out home cook recipes whenever possible, talking with friends and family and searching for vintage cookbooks.

"Antique markets are full of used books," he explains. "I always spend an hour or two in the used-book section hoping I can find a cookbook from Smith Island or Tangier Island."

Junior League cookbooks are among those prized for their preservation of regional dishes.

"The national Junior League organization takes great pride in the cookbooks coming from different leagues," says Debbie Daugherty Richardson, a past president of the Junior League of Annapolis, which publishes two popular cookbooks of regional recipes, including traditional Maryland favorites like deviled crab and a variety of crab casseroles.

"Part of the pride comes from the tradition of sharing the recipes from generation to generation," she says.

When the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club published a 50th-anniversary cookbook in 2004, member Gail Smith contributed a crab casserole recipe she remembered from her youth.

"My mother was also a member of the garden club," she says. "The casserole came from my mother's cookbook. She used to make it when she had a big group. My daughter also has a couple recipes in the book — we keep it generational in there!"

Smith says when she cooks for family, she makes a lot of the dishes her mother made. "My kids like them and my grandchildren like them," she says.

Community cookbooks, thick with crab recipes, also help those without deep Baltimore roots quickly tap into the region's food culture.

Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club member Ande Williams grew up in New England, so she was unfamiliar with crab dishes when she moved to Baltimore in 1997. She uses her garden club cookbook for traditional crab recipes, like crab dip. "Cookbooks like this are great for old family recipes and local dishes," she explains.

Local cookbooks are a gold mine for old-school home cooking crab recipes, but certain dishes, like fried hard crab and crab fluff, are more frequently prepared in restaurant kitchens.

Gary Sanders, owner of CJ's Restaurant in Owings Mills, says the fried hard crab — a crab stuffed with crab meat, dipped in batter and deep-fried — has been on the CJ's menu for as long as he can remember. "It came from my mother and father," he explains. "Years ago, my dad used to go down to Duffy's and get a fried crab once a month. I think that's where the idea came from."

Sanders admits that the old-fashioned dish is mostly ordered by older customers. But, he says, when younger people try it, they love it.

At Pappas Restaurant in Parkville, traditional dishes like crab imperial are a hit with "young and old alike," says manager Justin Windle. (Windle's father-in-law, Mark Pappas, owns the restaurant).

"There's something about imperial," says Windle. "It's a hearty dish and has that old-school charm. It's a nice nostalgic dish." Crab imperial, he says, is the second-most-popular dish at Pappas — after crab cakes.

Imperial, like many old-fashioned crab recipes, incorporates fatty ingredients like mayonnaise and butter health concerns may be one reason these dishes have relinquished the spotlight.

"I try to cook healthier during the week," says Smith, of the garden club. Still, when she cooks for her family or friends, she pushes health concerns aside. "If I'm having an occasion with the family, I like to include something that's been in the family. Or if I'm having a dinner party. I cook more fattening food for a crowd!"

Even if they mean a few extra hours at the gym later, old favorite crab recipes should not be forgotten. They are part of the fabric of Chesapeake Bay culture and an important part of regional history.

And with sweet, delectable crab as a centerpiece, they are absolutely delicious.

Next week, we'll explore the world of soft shell crabs — what they are, what people love (and hate) about them, how to cook them and where to find them.

Mobjack Imperial Crab

Whitey Schmidt's "The Crab Cookbook" includes recipes for crab prepared nearly every way imaginable — including this classic take on crab imperial. "Crab imperial is just the dish for a warm summer's evening," writes Schmidt, recommending a light appetizer and fruit kabobs served alongside the crab. Recipe reprinted with permission.



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