Fourth of July came, and being from Baltimore, The Rocket Scientist and I decided that it was prime time to capture some of our past with a good old-fashioned Baltimore crab feast. We did it up the way our parents did when we were kids: steamed crabs, steamed shrimp, corn on the cob, and most importantly, good friends. The only real difference is that we served wine instead of the more traditional National Bohemian beer (Natty Bo to you natives).
We got the crabs from a local place right on Tampa Bay who knows how to steam them the B-more way. They were smaller than we had hoped, but it’s summer, so it’s to be expected. We steamed the shrimp ourselves in the same seasonings that the crabs were done in, adding a little vinegar to the steaming water and red onions on top of the shrimp. All in all, it was a fine way to celebrate our nation’s birthday.
The following day left us with just over a dozen crabs. Our choice was to either simply pick and eat them cold—perfectly acceptable behavior in Charm City—or make soup. We decided on the latter, a somewhat-traditional version of the kind of soup we had grown up on, both in and out of crab season.
1 pound meat from previously-steamed crabs
1 28oz can whole tomatoes
2 ears fresh corn, cut from the cob
1 14 oz can green beans
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 small red potatoes, cubed
3 carrots, diced
¼ white onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 tbl Old Bay
½ tsp celery seed
Makes 8 Servings
The time-consuming part is cleaning and picking the crabs. It took the two of us, working together, just over half an hour to pick the 14 or so crabs we had left over. After that, it was as simple as prepping the vegetables and stirring all the ingredients into the pot, putting the meat in at the end. I know there are some folks who like to put shell halves in the soup (with meat still in them), but we don’t think that adds anything flavor-wise, and just adds to the annoyance of trying to eat the soup.
The entirety of the can of tomatoes went into the pot (the smaller Le Crueset Dutch Oven), water and all. We gave the tomatoes a rough chop before putting them in. We let the pot simmer about an hour to integrate the flavors and soften the vegetables.
If the crab meat were canned, I’d probably use about 2 more tablespoons of Old Bay to ratchet up the spice enough.
Good California Pinot Noir is a fine accompaniment with many foods, so I chose a 2009 Sea Smoke Southing. It doesn’t hurt that I’m in the middle of a Pinot Noir obsession right now—I can’t think of drinking much else (although I’m hoping that as I’m writing this, someone is out in the garden picking some mint for a nice Sunday afternoon julep). I might also consider pouring a high-octane Australian Shiraz or a peppery French Syrah with this soup. Given the strong tomato base, I’m not sure there are too many whites I’d pour with it, but if I did, I’d probably go with a somewhat-sweeter dry Riesling (not late harvest or anything crazy) to contrast with the spice.
Steamed crabs and crab soup are two of the main things we miss from where we grew up (Silver Queen corn being one of the others), so getting them both in the span of a couple of days was just the right touch of home.