Crabtastic!

Our Baltimore delicacy makes its appearance in an array of clever dishes. Check out our favorites.

Florida corn soup with Maryland jumbo lump crabmeat from Prime in Fells Point –Scott Suchman

We haven't lost our allegiance to steamed crabs and crab cakes. (That will never happen.) We just felt it was time to pay homage to all the other ways crabmeat gets used in restaurants around these parts. Local chefs are extremely creative, incorporating jumbo lump into everything from the quirky (like the crab pretzel) to the avant-garde (decadent deviled eggs, anyone?). We also sought advice on everyone's favorite party snack—crab dip. We asked several food-loving personalities to share their special ingredient. You'll be surprised by some of the responses: Curry! Almonds! And we couldn't have a crab issue without talking to the Cernak family, who will be closing the venerable Obrycki's this November. But don't be too sad. They have great plans for their crab business.

Here are our 26 top crab dishes.

RETRO

Crab Balls
Gunning's Seafood Restaurant
Gunning's Seafood Restaurant (7304 Parkway Dr., Hanover, 410-712-9404) is the kind of no-frills place where you'd expect to find a hint of salt in the air and hear the roar of an outboard motor instead of planes from BWI. There's no ceremony in the presentation of the crab balls ($12.99)—five or six on a plate, accompanied by a pair of plastic cups filled with prosaic cocktail sauce. But inside those miniature fried globes is the real deal: generous lumps of meat packed tight. It's like popping a mini crab cake into your mouth.

Crab Lumps a la Norfolk
Williamsburg Inn
We're not sure of its pedigree, but crab ala Norfolk used to be a popular Eastern Shore dish. Like many recipes, though, it's fallen out of favor over the years. Thankfully, the Williamsburg Inn (11131 Pulaski Hwy., White Marsh, 410-335-3172), a throwback itself, has kept the old-fashioned dish ($23.95 with two sides) on its menu. It features jumbo crab lumps, cubes of Smithfield ham, and sliced mushrooms sautéed in butter and sherry wine. Take a bite, and your taste buds are time-traveling to the past.

Crab Fluff
Ocean Pride Restaurant
A recent post on www.chowhound.com created a lively thread about our region's unique crab fluff, or crab puff as some call it. We're happy that places like Ocean Pride Restaurant (1534 York Rd., Lutherville, 410-321-7744) still serve this tradition. It's like a giant fritter, with a breaded crab cake deep-fried to golden-brown perfection. Add fries and coleslaw for a $16.95 platter.

Crab Pie
Matthew's Pizza
Of course, there's crab pie in Crabtown, hon, and Matthew's Pizza (3131 Eastern Ave., 410-276-8755) does it best. This delectable, chewy-crust pizza (large, $14.79/market price) is packed with backfin, a fine blanket of hand-grated mozzarella and imported Reggiano cheeses, and, the pièce de résistance, sweet caramelized onions. Better get two. Matthew's large is only about nine inches.

Hard-Fried Crab
Bo Brooks Restaurant
The hard-fried crab ($16)—an old-school classic—has waned in popularity recently, but Bo Brooks Restaurant (2780 Lighthouse Point in the 2700 block of Boston St., 410-558-0202) keeps the dish alive. A whole crab is trimmed of its top shell, stuffed with crab-cake filling, and then battered and deep fried. Commit to getting messy, because once you get past the puffy golden batter (gnawing it off the claws is particularly gratifying) and dense filling, there is still the crab itself to crack and consume.

Stuffed Lobster Tail
Costas Inn
Known for classic steamed-crab-and-mallet suppers, Costas Inn (4100 North Point Blvd., Dundalk, 410-477-1975) also has a thing for crab imperial—a heap of crab slathered in creamy white sauce offered atop shrimp, orange roughy, the fish du jour, or even on its own. But to experience this lumpilicious treat at the pinnacleof opulence, try the stuffed lobster tail ($35.95), a thick curl of delectable meat straining from its shell. 


Celebrity Recipe

Secrets to a great crab dip

"I add sherry to mine as my 'secret ingredient.' It's pretty common in cream-of-crab soup recipes, but I don't really see it in many dip recipes. Whenever I see a good crab cake or cream-of-crab recipe, I see if I can steal any of those flavors to add to the dip."

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
8 ounces (or more!) lump crab
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay plus extra for topping
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper

Panko crumbs and/or cheddar cheese

Mix together all ingredients except the panko crumbs and cheddar cheese. Spoon into a casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Top with panko crumbs, cheddar cheese, or both, then dust with Old Bay.

—From Reagan Warfield, DJ, MIX 106.5


Celebrity Recipe

Secrets to a great crab dip

"These are the most delicious things on the face of the earth," he says of his gussied-up crab-dip invention called broiled crab puffs. The recipe includes Old English sharp cheddar cheese, mustard, and a dash of ground red pepper. "You have a bite-sized or two-bite-sized piece of heaven."

1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
1 (five-ounce) jar Kraft Old English Sharp Cheddar
4 tablespoons Hellmann's mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons French's regular mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
10 saltine crackers, crushed
6 English muffins

Set broiler to high. Pick over the crabmeat to remove shells. Heat the jar of cheese in the microwave until softened. Combine all ingredients except the crab and muffins and mix well. Gently stir in the crabmeat, and spread the mix over each muffin half.

Cut each half into quarters and then place on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet about six inches from the broiler, five to 10 minutes, until the tops are golden and the mixture is bubbly. Watch to make sure they don't burn (if they get too brown, they are too close to the broiler).

—Steve Rouse, part-time radio DJ, also tends to a 6-acre farm in Fallston called Rousedale


Celebrity Recipe

Secrets to a great crab dip

1 pound fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, gently picked through for shells, keep refrigerated until ready to mix
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons fines herbes (a mix of fresh tarragon, chives, parsley, and chervil), see note

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix ingredients, except crab, in a mixing bowl until well combined. Gently fold in the crab with a rubber spatula so as not to break up the lumps. Gently spoon into a shallow 2-to-3-quart casserole and bake uncovered until lightly browned and bubbly.

Serve immediately with fresh sliced baguette or water crackers.

Note: If chervil is unavailable, use 1 tablespoon each of fresh chopped tarragon, parsley, and chives.

—Kevin Miller, executive chef, Widespread Concierge Services


Celebrity Recipe

Secrets to a great crab dip

"I developed this combination of ingredients for hot crab dip over the years," Shattuck says of her recipe, which includes almonds and Monterey Jack cheese. "Occasionally, I also add artichoke hearts if it complements the other items on my menu for the evening."

1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
Juice from one fresh lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (more if desired)
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup fresh lump crabmeat (or a can of crabmeat)
1/2-1 cup Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and Old Bay until smooth. Mix in the Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Fold in the slivered almonds and lump crabmeat. Place in an oven-proof casserole dish and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until bubbly hot, about 25 minutes. Serve with pita chips, celery, or a thinly sliced baguette.

—From Molly Shattuck, founder of Molly Shattuck Vibrant Living


Celebrity Recipe

Secrets to a great crab dip

"We really enjoy the original Old Bay crab-dip recipe. However, we rarely follow the rules, so we decided to add Worcestershire sauce to add some richness to the flavor and lemon juice for freshness."

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Old Bay
1 tablespoon mustard
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cream cheese, mayo, Old Bay, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon in a medium bowl. Gently fold in crabmeat. Place in a casserole dish, top with cheddar cheese, and bake until cheese is melted and dip is bubbly. Serve with baguette slices or crackers.

—Angela Lewis, co-owner, Gunpowder Bison & Trading Co.


Celebrity Recipe

Secrets to a great crab dip

"It's something that's a little bit unusual," he says of his recipe for curried crab dip, which calls for curry powder, coconut milk, and currants. "The coconut milk works beautifully with the crabmeat." He serves it with gingersnaps.

1/2 cup dried currants
Boiling water, as needed
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup minced green onions or chives
1/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 pound backfin or claw blue crabmeat
Crackers or gingersnaps for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the currants in a small bowl with just enough water to cover. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, and put the currants aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, curry powder, mayonnaise, coconut milk, green onion, and red bell pepper. Beat until smooth and somewhat creamy. Mix in the crabmeat, currants, and reserved currant liquid.

Transfer the mixture to a greased casserole dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot or warm with Melba rounds, water crackers, or gingersnaps. Serves about eight.

—John Shields, chef/owner of Gertrude's

More Food & Drink