By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
Man, this pandemic is really beginning to become a hassle, don’t you think? There are mornings when I wake up and don’t even know what day it is. Even more exciting is the ever-present thought that August is just around the corner. I mean, dear God, I’m still waiting for the Y2K bug to hit. What is going on around here?
While we prepare ourselves to reopen the restaurant, the remodeling being just recently completed, we yet again find ourselves on an amazingly limited crew, reminiscent of the tales of woe we read coming out of Ocean City. Yes, this has been a strange year, indeed.
Hopefully, many of us small business owners will be able to continuing putting out the shingle, waiting for brighter days and (we can only hope) deeper pockets. At least we have the hundred-degree weather to give us a sense of summer fun. I’ll take it. I would much rather endure a hot day than look out my window and see barren trees and a brisk wind. I get cold just thinking about it.
And when we align ourselves with the season, what better way is there to enjoy a hot soup (yes, I did just write hot soup) than by celebrating our most popular import here in Maryland, the blue crab? It amazes me, but certainly does not surprise me to see countless people eat even more countless crabs, those scavenger bottom-dwellers that have come to be synonymous with our beautiful state.
Yes, between the flag and the crab, we are unique and well-known. I’ll take that.
But back to the crab, one of my favorite dishes to make is the simple Maryland Crab Soup. I remember digging through an older version of The Professional Chef and running across their recipe for this wonderful soup. The only problem was that the recipe was for cream of crab soup, and quite frankly, it was an aberration, only somewhat closely resembling the creamy goo to which we are so warmly accustomed.
And the more I write this, the more funny stories just pop into my head. Years ago, my wife and I took the kids to Asbury Park (yes, you may start laughing) to see Brian Regan in concert. Walking down the boardwalk, we entered the “finest” restaurant in town. My wife loved cream of crab soup, so we ordered two bowls.
The bowls were place in front of us with hard boiled eggs chopped in the bottom, and a gluey substance was thus glopped into the bowls from some small pitchers. We sat there, numb and afraid. The server noted our hesitancy and stated “everyone loves this soup. It’s our best seller!”
We each took one bite as the server was walking away, and it was everything I could do to not spit it back in the bowl. I have never eaten Elmer’s Glue, but I dare say this was the closest I have ever come to doing so. It took us a few minutes to get the server back to the table and we promptly returned the soup. I am not one to complain about food in a restaurant, but I stated that the soup was not up to par, or, in fact, good in any way.
The server rolled her eyes and asked, “where are you from?”
Deep sigh from said server: “Oh, yeah. We always get that complaint all the time from you people.”
Wow. So we were not the first ones to complain about the crab glue-bowl-thing? And what was up with the hard-boiled eggs? It was so bizarre.
So forget about the cream of crab soup for a moment. It was just good to vent a little bit. In the summertime, nothing hits the spot better for me than a nice bowl of real Maryland Crab.
And here is where you get to really learn how strange I am. I don’t like picking crabs and I don’t like crab cakes or crab imperial. I know. It’s an affront to Marylanders everywhere. Too bad, deal with it.
But, this soup is a winner and so easy to make. It screams crab and also celebrates the harvest of local vegetables. Make this, if for no other reason than to beat the pandemic doldrums.
Maryland Crab Soup
makes about 1 gallon
8 pieces pepper bacon
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 c. Vegetable blend (corn, carrots & green beans)
2 quarts crab or seafood stock
2 c. Chicken stock (optional)
2 c. George’s Spicy Bloody Mary Mix
8 ea. Vine ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped (seeds intact)
1 lb. Crab meat
Old Bay or other seafood seasoning, to taste
- Cut the bacon into little strips (lardons) and render in a pot large enough to hold the remaining ingredients.
- When the bacon is crispy, add the diced onion.
- When the onion is ready, add vegetables.
- Add remaining ingredients up to and including the vine ripe tomatoes.
- Cook until the tomatoes are soft and the flavors have married well.
- Adjust your seasoning with the Old Bay and add crab meat. While there is obviously flavor in the base, you will want the flavor of the crab meat itself to permeate the soup.
- Serve with crackers if preferred, garnishing with more seafood seasoning if that is what you heart desires.
— Paul G. Suplee is an Associate Professor of
Culinary Arts at Wor-Wic Community College.
Find his ePortfolio at www.heartofakitchen.com.