When you live in the mid-Atlantic you are exposed to crab feasts at an early age. For me, I was about 9 years old. My childhood friend who lived across the street and I were always spending summer time at each others house. One Saturday her Dad came home with a bushel of live Maryland Blue Crabs.
We watched him put the poor critters in a pot, put some ingredients on top of them, including a full bottle of white wine, locked the lid and placed it on the gas grill. Then he told us to go play because we wouldn’t want to be there listening to the crabs cooking. He was right.
A little while later her Mom called for us kids to move the picnic table to the patio, where she lined it with old newspaper. She brought out a boat load of nut crackers, a couple of wooden hammers and the weirdest looking prying knives I’ve ever seen. All the utensils needed for a crab feast. It was my first time ever eating whole crabs and crab legs. Ok, crab in general. And I was hooked!
Every summer I would look forward to the annual Maryland Blue Crab Feast. This recipe calls for red wine vinegar and beer. I think this is where our neighborhood chef used the full bottle of white wine instead. I learned many years later that he used the entire bottle of wine because it makes the crabs drunk. They don’t care so much about being cooked, so their meat comes out more tender. Ewe..but it makes sense.
Over time, their little family feast open to everyone grew into a huge event with several of the neighborhood Dads making the crab run on a Saturday morning. While Moms and kids prepared the picnic tables, packed coolers with ice and drinks, and cut up cabbage and carrots for the giant punch bowl size of coleslaw. My Mom always made the hush puppies, one of the other neighborhood Moms would make cornbread biscuits, a third Mom always brought dessert, she was a professional baker so they were always fantastic!
We kids knew when it was nearing time to dump the crabs out of the pot and onto the picnic tables, because the Moms would start cooking the corn on the cob. What great memories those were. How I miss those neighborhood get-together events.
We always ended the feast by making homemade ice cream. I guess the folks thought we kids needed something to do after breaking shells and crushing claws. None of that new finagled modern electric gadgets for us. Nope..we had those old fashioned wood and hand cranked ice cream makers. And it was a big one.
Actually I think I remember several of us kids all churning a crank at the same time. There were a lot of people at those neighborhood feasts!
She Crab Soup:
I’ve had crab in nearly every way possible. Cakes, soup, au gratin, Norfolk, Maryland Crab Legs, Alaskan Crab Legs, crab dip, crab sandwiches and the list can go on and on and on. But I have to say She Crab Soup is my most favorite!
The best She Crab Soup I’ve ever had is at Waterman’s Restaurant in Virginia Beach. Now you won’t find their specific recipe anywhere online, but I found one that comes pretty dag-gone close: Virginia Beach She Crab Soup.
It’s followed by my second favorite version at Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant. We’ve been to the Virginia Beach and Williamsburg, Virginia locations for Captain Georges.
If you’re ever in Virginia Beach we highly recommend both Waterman’s and Captain Georges. They are a must visit for us every time we head to the shore.
Maryland Crab Cakes:
Today I found this recipe for Maryland Crab Cakes that is nearly identical to what my childhood friend’s Mom would make for us.
Unlike her Dad, MommaH would let us girls help her mix up the crab and “pancake” the cakes for cooking.
The only difference between this recipe and what we did in her kitchen was to leave out the panko. Actually I’m not even sure what that is.
I can’t wait to try this recipe. Crab is a bit expensive for us right now. But when we get back on our feet, it’s one of the first things I plan on cooking for a great family weekend dinner!