With the weather starting to get a bit chillier, I have been craving a late summer/almost fall crab feast (the pictures from July 30th didn’t help much either…).
So I decided to do something about it. Thanks to Haggen’s sales and some questioning at the seafood counter, BME & I had a very tasty and successful West Coast style crab feast: 1 Dungeness crab each with butter, apple cider vinegar & J.O. Seasoning for dipping + some deliciously fried rainbow baby potatoes (in the red bowl in center) + tomato, cucumber, onion salad + cold Lake Chelan cider in a chilled mug.
As a native Marylander, I love crabs. As a born and bred Southern Marylander, I love crab feasts and feel they the perfect dinner celebration for, well, anything. Whether it be a birthday, the start of summer/the O’s having a good season, a pre-wedding dinner reception (as my sister & now brother amazingly did), or a going away party, there is just something wonderful about a bushel (or more) of crabs, good friends, and a pitcher of beer (preferably Boh — I mean, come on, guys). The combination of brown paper covering the table and the absolute mess that is crab picking makes even the fussiest people let their hair down a bit, loosen their ties, and push up their sleeves. Before long, and with the help of a few Crab Knifes, you’ll find yourself a bridesmaid at the wedding of the couple next to you or an adamant supporter of whoever that politician is over there having the crab feast fundraiser.
For me though, crab feasts get a bit more personal: with the delightful mess comes a warm nostalgia as I remember my childhood “job” as a server on my dad’s crab feasts. For a few years, starting at the tender ages of 5 (probably even younger!), my sister and I served cafeteria-style trays laden with hot steamed corn, ripe juicy tomato wedges, and hard crabs generously sprinkled with J.O. Seasoning. Little cups of vinegar and J.O. for crab meat dipping were distributed, as well as a secret butter sauce affectionately named “Scully’s Secret Sauce” for the corn — all condiments I use today at my adult crab feasts. I mean, come on, guys, we were the cutest waitresses, right? The photo below was actually taken by a passenger on the boat at some point.
My favorite memory of this time is what came after all the trays were distributed and drinks were served: the teaching of how to properly open and clean hard crabs. My sister and I used to giggle with glee as we, in our tender young ages, taught these much older adults how to do something we felt we were born knowing. We’d glance at those using knockers with a condescending eye, stating “well, if you have to … but real crab pickers don’t use those” before neatly cracking the soft under side of a claw shell to reveal the lollipop of meat underneath (fully intact, of course). We were delightful sassy waterbrats, I’m sure, but I remember the lessons were just as amusing for the adults as they were for us! (At my more mature age, I have gotten a bit more sensitive in my crab picking lessons with friends but my “No knockers!” rule is still in full effect — I even have BME pooh-poohing them!)
For another summer time favorite memory, I present to you this cucumber, tomato and onion salad, one of my absolute favorites. I serve it at crab feasts because, well, why not? It’s easy, it’s vegetables, and it uses vinegar and J.O. Seasoning. Growing up, there was always a huge bowl of it covered in saran wrap in the summer and the perfect salad to snag a bit off and on throughout the day. Even now, my sister and I love it!
Summer Tomato Cucumber Salad
– 2 large cucumbers
– 2 large tomatoes
– 1/2 large white onion
– 1/2 cup to 1-cup apple cider vinegar (enough to cover all the vegetables)
– J.O. Seasoning (or Old Bay if you are on that side of the debate)
1. Wash and peel the cucumbers. Once peeled, cut in half. Take a fork and run it down the lengths of all the cucumbers, creating ridges all around the cucumbers (this allows the vinegar to seep in a bit more, I think… My dad always did it so I do it.) Then slice, as thick or thin as you want (but not paper thin).
2. Wash and cut the tomatoes into wedges. Once in wedges, slice each wedge into slices as thick or thin as you want (just again, not paper thin).
3. Wash and chop or dice the 1/2 of the onion (or slice if you prefer your onion that way).
4. Combine all in a large bowl; pour in the vinegar and top with seasoning. Mix with a spoon. Cover in saran wrap and let chill at least an hour so it gets nice and cold. I personally like the salad after it’s been sitting for a bit in the vinegar and spices.
(from Bo Brooks, Baltimore, MD)
– Sweet tea vodka, like Firefly (my favorite)
– Pink lemonade
– Crushed ice
1. 1 part sweet tea vodka to 2 parts pink lemonade (modify as needed). Serve over crushed ice.