Growing up in Northeast Pennsylvania, fresh seafood wasn’t really an option for me. So for the majority of my life, I missed out on such gems as mussels, pollack, porgy and much more. Since my introduction to saltwater proteins, my absolute favorite seafood dish is the regional specialty, Maryland blue crabs. How can you go wrong with a crustacean whose scientific name actually means “beautiful savory swimmer?” Wifey grew up just a short trip from the Chesapeake and crab feasts were a regular part of life. Her parents had one for their rehearsal dinner 30 years ago, their family always got together in the summer to swim and “pick crabs” and one of the first get-togethers to let me know I was part of the family was a crab feast.
For those of you who aren’t familiar the traditional Chesapeake crab prep is a simple mixture of spicy Old Bay seasoning, rock salt and vinegar steamed together. Once the crabs are cooked, we typically cover a table with layers of newspaper and just spill everything out and begin picking. Picking crabs takes time and effort! I have gotten better but the process of breaking the crabs down and getting every luscious bit of meat out is not for everyone. That is why we always have plenty of beer and plenty of time to talk to each other. That combination of great food, drinks and 3-4 hours of quality time makes Maryland blue crabs the perfect Gridiron Grub. They may not be available everywhere but if you get a chance definitely try this while enjoying the games.
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup beer
3 tablespoons kosher salt (or more! You can salt each layer of crab as you lay them in the pot)
1 clove minced garlic
1 bay leaf
3/4 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning or crab boil
Combine liquid ingredients with seasonings. In a large stockpot with a lid, place half of the crabs on the bottom; pour on half of the vinegar mixture. Add remaining crabs and liquid.
Cover and steam until crabs become bright red, about 30 minutes. Be warned that as they warm up, they may become a little feisty!
*As you can see it is fairly simple prep and there are just 2 things you need to be aware of. First, do not store the crabs in water but if anything, prior to cooking, store them in a cooler with a little bit of ice. Second, the reason why you store them this way is that the crabs must be alive when you cook them or else they will have a strong ammonia smell when cooked and will not be too edible. If you avoid this, it is pretty hard to mess up the dish and easy to enjoy.
(Photo courtesy of 80 proof)