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More Small Thanksgiving — Crab and Corn Dip

Crab and Corn Dip

So here’s something that always struck me as odd. As a Virginian, I’ll argue that the first Thanksgiving feast was held in my adopted commonwealth, but even if you subscribe to the idea that the feast took place in Massachusetts, why on earth is it that seafood and corn are not typically part of the tradition? I can’t imagine that somewhere very early on, the colonists on the east coast didn’t learn from the native Americans about growing corn and harvesting the abundant crabs, oysters, mussels, clams and fish from the readily accessible waters around them. Doesn’t make much sense to me, so when the holiday rolls around, I like to try to incorporate both into the meal somehow. That’s where this crab and corn dip comes into play. It can serve as a great appetizer for guests to enjoy while you’re getting the rest of the meal on the table, or a terrific snack while you’re watching the Packers and the Bears.

This version of the dip is scaled for a small group — three or four diners — but is easy to scale up if you have a larger dinner in the works. Crabs and corn are a truly awesome flavor combination. Add in the silky textures of  cream and melted cheese and, well, I can’t imagine a better way to get the most important foodie holiday off to a delicious start. It’s perfect.

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Crab Etouffee with Cajun Grilled Shrimp

Crab Etouffee with Grilled Shrimp

One of the things I like most about writing this blog is the people I’ve met through the vast online audience of foodies. They’re fun, crazy, and extraordinarily supportive folks who love great food, great wine, great beer and all that goes with it. A few of these friends aren’t bloggers but people who offer some very good products. When I can, I like to showcase some of those products, mainly because of the support they’ve given me. The recipe for this crab etouffee (and the grilled Shrimp) offers just such an opportunity.

The story behind this dish began with a great buy on some good, fresh (already picked!) Maryland blue crab meat and a plan for trying my hand at a Cajun-style etouffee (as opposed to the New Orleans or creole style I posted a year ago). The differences are subtle but real, the most obvious being the absence of tomatoes in Cajun recipes. Cajun etouffee is more likely to have crawfish than most anything else, but crab is fantastic, too. Then, of course, the lovely Carol just happened to come home with a couple of pounds of fresh wild-caught Carolina shrimp. I wasn’t going to let those gems sit in the fridge for a day, so a seafood fest took shape.

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Silver Queen Crab Cakes with Jalapeno Tartar Sauce

silver queen crab cakes

The origin of the Silver Queen crab cakes recipe is a household mystery here at Discovery Cooking. My lovely wife Carol began making them in the 1990s, I think, though it might have been even earlier.Since then, we’ve refined the recipe a great deal. My best guess is that we came across the original somewhere on Maryland’s eastern shore, which you could rightly call the intersection of Silver Queen corn and blue crabs. If you’re not familiar with Silver Queen, it’s a white corn that’s among the sweetest varieties I’ve ever tasted, in part because we live close enough to the main areas of cultivation that getting ears of Silver Queen the same day they’re picked is not very difficult.

Silver Queen crab cakes are found all over the eastern shore. There are dozens of recipes online, but this one is a bit different from most of the ones I’ve tried. The crab cakes are creamy with just a thin crust and the flavors are perfectly balanced. It’s a cliché, but they really do melt in your mouth. They’re great by themselves or make a really good sandwich.

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Crabby Mediterranean Salad

Crabby Mediterranean Salad

Spring has definitely arrived here in the Mid-Atlantic, but it’s still too early for a lot of fresh produce. The notable exception is lettuce and other fresh greens, which are abundant and will stay so until the night warm up too much. So the day after my first visit to the local farm market, I wanted to have a nice Sunday brunch and pulled together this terrific Mediterranean salad topped with a little Fregola Sarda and cheesy artichoke-crab balls.

The crab balls are like a cross between crab-artichoke dip and crab cakes — not too gooey but soft and moist with just a little crunch. The salad combines fresh romaine, olives, a bit of anchovy and a lemon balsamic vinaigrette along with a bit of pasta cooked in chicken stock.

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Soft Shell Crab Sandwich

soft-shell-crab

It’s going to be a busy Friday around the Discovery Cooking kitchen today, so I thought I’d post something that really isn’t much of a recipe, but a great treat if you happen to live where you can find a fresh soft shell crab or two.

For those who aren’t familiar with this delicacy, blue crabs, like all crustaceans, periodically shed their hard shells in order to grow. It takes a bit of time for the new shell to harden, and in the interval between shedding and the hardening of a new shell, the crabs can be eaten pretty much whole. Be sure to buy live soft shells if you can and ask the fish monger to clean them for you.

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Cantonese Velvet Corn Soup with Blue Crab

Since, to my knowledge, corn isn’t a staple of southern China, velvet corn soup almost certainly is a fusion of Cantonese and western cuisines, but it has a texture that could only be Cantonese. Velvet is the right word. Blue crabs, on the other hand, are the pride of the Chesapeake Bay and those of us lucky enough to live near the bay couldn’t survive without it, I think.

Here we combine the best of two worlds by combining velvet corn soup and crab. That’s not a great leap, since the Chesapeake region has some legendary crab and corn chowders. But the combination of textures and a bit of imagination in the presentation make this dish worthy of any fine dining menu.

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Panko Crusted Crab Cakes

crab cakes

Living near the Chesapeake Bay, it’s impossible to escape crab cakes. It’s a thing here. Everybody I know has a recipe, nearly every restaurant has crab cakes on the menu. Some of these are awful, with way to much filler and not enough crab, but most are terrific, in their own way.

At my home, we actually have two distinct and vastly different crab cake recipes. My lovely wife has her version (which I promise to get her to post one day) and I have mine. For me, the perfect crab cake has a crunchy crust and very little filler. After that initial crunch, the crab should just melt in your mouth.

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