This year’s Super Bowl matchup is shaping up to be a clash of the crabs.
I’m not kidding.
Both teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Baltimore Ravens, are from cities known for their crab. In San Francisco, it’s Dungeness crab, and in Baltimore, it’s blue crab.
Both of these types of crab aren’t as well-known in our neck of the woods as Alaskan king and snow crab.
Dungeness crab was named after a fishing village in Washington state, and it’s found along the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska. Blue crab, found on the East Coast including Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, gets its name from its blue claws and oval, dark-blue-green shell. Both have smaller, less meaty legs than king or snow crab.
Chefs have told me that both Dungeness and blue crab are good choices for crab cakes, which would be a great addition to a Super Bowl menu. It’s a little different from the usual pizza, wings and chili. If you want to dive into the crab idea, cakes seem more hefty and hearty than, say, sushi crab rolls.
Or, you could serve crab chowder along with your usual chili, or add a warm crab dip to your tray of chips and salsa.
I’ve found whole Dungeness crab at Harmon’s grocery stores, and Salt Lake City’s Aquarius Fish Market and Market Street seafood shops are other places to look for fresh Dungeness or blue crab.
Unfortunately, most of the canned and pasteurized crab meat in your supermarket comes from Southeast Asia or India. Yes, even our crab has been outsourced.
But it’s the thought that counts, right? You can still honor either team with a platter of crab cakes, whether it’s from real Dungeness or blue crab, or a generic version out of the grocery store’s frozen foods case. You’re just eating them, not doing their genealogy.
The typical Baltimore crab cake is flavored with Old Bay seasoning, a spicy mix of dry mustard, mace, ginger, paprika, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, thyme and cayenne pepper. It was first sold in 1939 near a Baltimore fish market, and is now made by the Maryland-based McCormick Spice Company. But, I’ve seen some San Francisco crab cake recipes that also include Old Bay.
In 2003, I visited Baltimore and met chef John Shields, author of “Chesapeake Bay Cooking” and chef of Gertrude’s. He said gentle mixing is important so as not to break up the luscious lumps of meat. Here’s his recipe for classic Maryland Crab Cakes. I’ve also included my favorite Golden Corn and Crab Chowder — a good way to cheer for the 49ers.
Gertie’s Crab Cakes
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Chesapeake (or Old Bay) seasoning
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1 pound crabmeat, picked over for shells
1/3 cup saltine cracker crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying (optional)
Olive oil, for sautéing (optional)
Mix the egg, mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco together in a blender or mixing bowl until frothy. Place the crabmeat in a bowl and sprinkle the cracker crumbs over the crab. Pour the egg mixture over the top. Gently toss or fold the ingredients together, taking care not to break up any lumps of crab. Form the cakes by hand, or with an ice cream scoop, into 8 mounds about 3 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. Do not pack the mixture too firmly. The cakes should be as loose as possible, yet still hold their shape. Place the cakes on a tray or platter lined with waxed paper, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking.
To fry: Pour oil into a heavy skillet to a depth of about 1 1/2 inches. Heat the oil and fry the cakes, a few at a time, until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
To sauté: Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet and sauté the cakes, turning several times, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total on each side.
To broil: Lay cakes out on a broiler pan. Slip the cakes under a preheated broiler until nicely browned, turning to cook evenly, 4 or 5 minutes.
— Adapted from “Chesapeake Bay Cooking” by John Shields, (Broadway Books, 1998)
Golden Corn & Crab Chowder
If you’d like a smoother texture, blend all three cans of corn. If you can afford fresh or frozen crab meat, use it instead of canned.
Three 15-ounce cans corn, drained
2 tablespoon dried chopped onions
Two 14-ounce cans chicken broth or 3 1/2 cups fish stock
3 cups frozen hash browns O’Brien
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes or chives
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning, or to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
Three 6-ounce cans crab, not drained (or about 2 cups of lump crabmeat, picked through for shells)
1 cup half-and-half or milk
Pour 2 cans of the corn in the blender with the onion flakes and 1 can of the chicken broth (or 1 cup fish stock). Blend until smooth.
Drain the third can of corn and add to a stock pot with the pureed corn, remaining broth or stock, hash browns, chicken broth, bell pepper, parsley flakes, salt, pepper, Old Bay seasoning, freshly ground pepper, lemon juice and sugar. Turn heat to high.
While mixture is coming to a boil, mix cornstarch and water until smooth. Add to the soup and stir as the soup gently boils and thickens, about 5 minutes. Add crab and crab liquid. Thoroughly mix in the half-and-half or milk. Serve with oyster crackers, if desired.
— “Soup’s On!” by Valerie Phillips (Covenant Communications, $19.95)
Valerie Phillips blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.