November 1, 2011

crab soup, Maryland-style

I first had this soup for lunch with a friend in a very busy and crowded restaurant (which I think is the best endorsement you can give an eatery) in Northeast, MD, en route to Chincoteague, VA for a camping weekend, if I remember correctly (good grief, that was nearly 20 years ago!!).  Our tent (and, more importantly, our sleeping bags) got soaked in a deluge and I got pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence (at 10 in the morning and 18 years old, needless to say, the only influence I was under was excitement ... although I admit that driving with my left foot out the window may not have been the savviest move).

But that's a story for another time.  Back to the crab soup, which was so good that as soon as I got my hands on some crabmeat, I tried to recreate the experience.  Unfortunately, that wasn't until five years later, in small-town coastal Japan, but my tastebuds have a better memory than the rest of my senses, and I think I came pretty close.  Here's the recipe I'm serving tonight, with cheddar-garlic biscuits adapted from Betty Crocker's cookbook:

Maryland-style Crab Soup

1/2 lb shrimp - steam and shell, set aside
1/2 lb crabmeat (I use the real deal, in a one pound refrigerated can - the other half pound goes for crab dip, another crowd-pleaser.  Maybe I'll post that recipe another day)

4 potatoes, cubed and cooked (I add the potato water to the soup, too)
corn / carrots / green beans (optional - about 1-2 cups total, depending on how thick you want the soup)

While the potatoes (and vegetables) are cooking, use butter to saute:
red bell pepper
celery (in a pinch, celery seed will do)

To the potatoes and sauteed vegetables add:
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 cups each chicken broth and shrimp broth (I use the water I cooked/steamed the shrimp in, or just more chicken broth - and see here for how to make the best chicken broth you've ever eaten)
1 bay leaf
splash of Worchestershire
pinch each of clove and cayenne (more than a pinch of the hot stuff if you like it spicy)
a few grinds of black pepper

When all vegetables are tender, add the shrimp and crab.  You're just heating them through.  Don't boil them or they'll get tough (although I've done that by accident and the flavor is still fabulous).  In fact this soup is great made the day before and just heated up at mealtime to serve.  Garnish with cilantro, and prepare yourself to hear raves from your family or guests......


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