Food

Maryland Crabs & Corn

Mid-Atlantic
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July 2021
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By
Susan
Elnicki Wade

When you come ashore to provision on the Chesapeake Bay, a cornucopia of fresh produce and seafood awaits, just plucked from the land and sea. Vibrant vegetables might catch your eye ruby red tomatoes, golden squash and slim green cucumbers. But be sure to save room in your shopping basket for two elements that define summer on the Bay: corn and crabs.

Chef Tom Green - crabs & corn - marinalife
Chef Tom Green | Tilghman Island Inn

Despite the royal moniker of Silver Queen, Maryland corn is often unceremoniously piled high in old wooden crates at farmers' markets, and local crabs are found kicking about in watermen's bushel baskets. Don't let the modest packaging fool you. Peel back the husk and take a whiff to experience the corn's sweet aroma and creamy kernels. And hold a feisty blue crab while avoiding his snapping claws to appreciate the magic of the Bay's waters.

"Our crabs and corn might be grown locally, but they are world-class delicacies," says Tom Green, chef and owner of Tilghman Island Inn on Maryland's Eastern Shore. "The same crab species is harvested in North Carolina and Louisiana, but they're just not as sweet as Chesapeake crustaceans. Our crabs grow plump around the same time as the corn ripens late in the season, so they're naturally connected and follow the core culinary philosophy of finding ingredients that go together well."

Sitting on the patio of Green's beautifully restored boutique inn is an idyllic location to get schooled on local crabs and corn. The view presents working boats chugging along Knapps Narrows as they head out to the Chesapeake Bay to pull up crab pots. Blue herons and egrets snatch aquatic creatures from seagrass and deliver a seafood dinner to hungry chicks in their nests.

A pair of bald eagles swirls in circles above the tree line as Green shares his culinary tricks of the trade. "In season, Maryland crabs and corn are the best on the planet, and nothing beats steamed crabs and sweet corn with Old Bay, butter or vinegar on a summer day, says Green. The key is finding them fresh and local to get top-quality ingredients."

Whether you're buying crabs at the docks from a waterman or at a fish market, Don't hesitate to ask the fishmonger about the crabs' origin and arrival date to make sure they've just come out of the Bay. When preparing crab meat and corn, keep it simple, don't over-cook and avoid adding a lot of nonsense. To enhance their flavors, you can add a pinch of other seasonal elements such as onions, poblano peppers or sweet basil.

When asked if he were a contestant on Chopped, and fresh Maryland crabs and corn appeared in his basket, what would Green make for the judges? With little hesitation, he replied "For the appetizer, I'd make crab and corn fritters on top of greens or heirloom tomatoes, and for the main course, I'd wow them with crab and corn succotash."

Fortunately for Marinalife readers, Chef Green has graciously agreed to share his recipes for these classic Chesapeake dishes and encourages us to give them a try this summer. ml

Editor's Note: Tom Green's 30 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality business include chef positions at the Ronald Reagan Building, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and U.S. House of Representatives. After years of vacationing on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Tom and his wife Marlise purchased the Tilghman Island Inn, which they have meticulously restored to create a graceful getaway on the Chesapeake waterfront. For more, go to tilghmanislandinn.com

Crab & Corn Fritters

crab corn fritter - crabs & corn - marinalife
Crab & Corn Fritter | Tilghman Island Inn[

6 ounces fresh crabmeat

1 teaspoon baking powder

1¾ cup fresh corn

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ cup white onion, finely chopped

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

2/3 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons scallions, sliced

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1-2 heirloom tomatoes

Olive oil to taste

Chopped parsley to taste

In a medium 10-inch skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Cook until onion softens, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the corn to the skillet and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and Old Bay. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, scallions and lemon juice. Gradually whisk flour mixture into milk mixture just until smooth. Stir in the corn and onion mixture and crabmeat. Cover and refrigerate 10 minutes.

Remove the corn crab batter from the refrigerator. Add enough oil to skillet so it reaches about 1/4 inch deep; heat over medium-high heat. Carefully drop 6 to 7 mounds of batter by tablespoon into hot oil. Cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer fritters to paper towels and repeat with remaining batter. Serve over fresh sliced heirloom tomatoes dressed with olive oil and chopped parsley. Sprinkle with chopped scallions.

Crab & Corn Succotash

Succotash

2 cups fresh corn

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup white onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt to taste

¼ cup Poblano pepper, finely chopped

Cracked black pepper to taste

Crab Corn Succotash - crabs & corn - marinalife
Crab & Corn Succotash | Tilghman Island Inn

Crab Salad

1 pound Fresh Lump crabmeat

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 scallions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons lemon vinaigrette

Kosher salt to taste

Cracked black pepper to taste

Old Bay seasoning to taste

Lemon Vinaigrette

132 cup olive oil

¼ cup lemon juice<

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon honey

1-2 small garlic cloves, minced

Kosher salt to taste

Cracked black pepper to taste

For lemon vinaigrette, add all ingredients into bowl and whisk together. Put aside for the crab salad.

Pick through crab meat to ensure that there is no shell. Place in a medium size bowl and add the parsley and scallions. Dress with lemon vinaigrette to lightly coat ingredients. Season with kosher salt, pepper and Old Bay to taste. Place in fridge until ready to plate.

In a medium 10-inch skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add poblano and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add corn and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Place succotash on the plate and top with the crab salad.

Related Articles
Cappy’s Crabs & the Chesapeake Feast
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My grandfather Cappy’s love of the water started with visits to his cousins’ house on the Potomac River. He was 14 when he built his first boat from a mail-order kit. Some of his fondest early memories on the water were the fishing charters his uncle would take him on and the bucket of fried chicken he’d bring along. Later in life, this motivated him to buy property on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay where I spent my summers as a child.  

Life on the Bay with a gaggle of cousins (18 of us) was a highlight of my childhood. We had free reign over the cul-de-sac populated by beach houses owned by my grandparents and their six adult children. When I was young, I would wake up with the sun and race to the window to assess the water conditions. The soft waves of early morning and glass surface made the best conditions for crabbing. 

All the cousins would meet at our grandparent’s house to grab chicken necks from the freezer and nets from the closet before rushing down to the dock. There weren’t enough nets to go around, but that hardly stopped us from crowding the dock in the cool dawn air in various states of dress, between pajamas and bathing suits. Each crab we caught was celebrated, sexed, sized and placed in our crab pot in the shallows under the dock until lunch. 

When my grandma Molly got out the crab pot and tongs, it was show time. My grandmother with a pair of tongs and feisty crustaceans are more evenly matched than you might expect. A few crabs near the top of the big pot always manage to hurl themselves over the edge, only to land in the boiling mac ‘n cheese water pot nearby. 

We would dress the picnic table in the front yard with newspaper, mallets and dishes of vinegar and Old Bay. Seated at an exclusive table away from the adults, we smashed, picked and dipped to our heart’s content. “Pass the vinegar!” “Is there a mallet I can use?” “Can you help me get the meat out?” “May I have another crab, please?” 

This relaxed and fun-loving atmosphere inspired my grandparents to start their own crab shack in nearby Deale, MD. Eponymously named for my grandfather, Cappy’s Crabs sits over Rockhold Creek near Harbour Cove Marina. Every weekend in the summer, you can find Grandma in the kitchen and Poppy behind the bar, with kids and grandkids helping in the kitchen or waiting tables. The restaurant has an expansive deck with five slips, some large enough for a 40-foot vessel. 

Like most of Cappy’s float-up guests, the seafood on the menu comes from the Chesapeake. The menu changes according to the seafood seasons and pricing, but also to the whim of my grandmother and each diner. Catering to generations of dietary restrictions and picky eaters has made her a versatile and creative chef. Guests can always expect seafood and fried chicken in an array of forms from cakes and sandwiches to the star ingredient in one of the multiple salads available. 

Side dishes feature macaroni and cheese and an array of veggies such as beet salad or broccoli salad. More traditional summer treats such as corn and coleslaw make a heralded appearance on the menu. Family favorites such as French fries and cornbread round out any meal. 

Some say it’s best to have wings with your crabs, picnic style at one of the outdoor tables covered in paper. Watching marina traffic and listening to the waves underneath you is the perfect way to break up a day on the water. Order an orange crush from the bar, and your Maryland summer crab feast is complete!  

Cappy’s Coleslaw

A fresh, lighter take on the traditional creamy coleslaw recipe.

Ingredients

½ medium cabbage

3 scallions

2 carrots 

¾ cup of peanuts

Juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp rice vinegar 

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp canola oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Grate carrots
  • Chop cabbage and scallions into thin slices
  • Add ingredients to a large bowl; dress and toss well

Makes about 6 servings.

Read More
What's Brewing in Baltimore?
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Remnants of a “Vote Against Prohibition” sign still linger in faded letters on a brick wall in Baltimore — a true representation of the city’s historical love for a brew. 

From the clipper ships that brought beer from Germany during the Revolutionary War to the birthplace of the beloved Natty Boh, Baltimore is not only rich in maritime and war traditions — it’s also known as a beer city. 

Baltimore boasts a nice selection of well-known bars and swanky restaurants, but you may not realize how many experimental breweries and eclectic taprooms are located just down the street. 

From serving ice-cold pints on a hot summer day to offering taproom tastings and outdoor events, these local breweries present unique, homemade craft beers in an entertaining atmosphere. The following locations explore antique structures, historic warehouses and a barn-turned-brewhouse in Baltimore City and County.

BALTIMORE CITY

Diamondback Brewing Company

1215 E. Fort Avenue

Locust Point

A garage-style window opens above high-top seating in this south Baltimore brewery — a perfect summertime hangout.  The experimental production brewery serves unfiltered lagers, hop forward ales and pizza in a lively urban atmosphere. Try the Maple Thief oatmeal stout, the Green Machine IPA or the American Locust Point Lager alongside a signature seasonal scratch-made house pizza such as the Howard, made with pulled duck confit, smoked provolone, onion, parsley and “Pee-Paw’s Secret BBQ Sauce.”

Ministry of Brewing

1900 E. Lombard Street

Upper Fells Point/Highlandtown

The stunning structure of the former St. Michaels Church in East Baltimore has high ceilings lined by archways with golden trim, colorful murals and a gorgeous organ on the second floor balcony overlooking an open space where pews used to sit. Originally opened in 1857, this church that once provided refuge to German Catholics was abandoned in 2011 and is now one of the city’s hottest brewery hangouts. Long beer hall-style tables and high-tops now fill the spacious renovated church. Biblical scriptures are written above where the taproom’s bar serves a selection of rotating beers such as the Old Maude brown ale, The Point pilsner and 9.9 Problems imperial stout.

The Brewer’s Art

1106 N. Charles Street

Mount Vernon

This hip and artsy brewery matches the vibe of the quirky neighborhood and local community. Built as a private residence in the early 1900s, the vintage townhouse remains in the same classical style as it looked centuries ago with a slight transformation into a cozy taproom. Each room provides a different feel from the upscale dining room to the gritty Downbar and the cozy upstairs lounge. While most breweries only offer beer, this location pours everything from house brews to red, white, rosé and sparkling wines, and craft cocktails.

Full Tilt Brewing

5604 York Road

Govans

This neighborhood brewery is all about live music, tasty drinks and providing a fun social atmosphere. Hosting everything from yoga classes to live acts and comedy shows, the brewery offers a full event calendar throughout the year. They often cater parties and sponsor fundraisers such as partnerships with Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) and Art with a Heart. The taproom is known for two famous brews: Hops the Cat American IPA and Dan’s Jams, a Swedish Fish sour ale. Complement your brew with spicy wings, honey sriracha-glazed Brussels sprouts or a juicy Full Tilt burger.

BALTIMORE COUNTY 

RavenBeer

8901 Yellow Brick Road, Suite B

Rosedale

As Baltimore icon Edgar Allan Poe was known for frequenting local city bars, this brewery pays homage to the writer with its own spin on classic American and German-style beer. Founder Stephen Demczuk began brewing when he was in Europe. Inspired by Poe’s writings, Demczuk named his concoctions after the famous literature. Variations include Annabel Lee White, a Belgian-style white beer with citrus, The Raven Special Lager, The Tell Tale Heart IPA and The Cask, a Bavarian double style IPA.

Heavy Seas Brewery

4615 Hollins Ferry Road

Halethorpe

Maryland breweries wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for Heavy Seas founder Hugh Sisson. He pioneered the state’s first brewpub and helped pass laws allowing them to operate. This southwest Baltimore County location began as Clipper City Brewing in 1995, then later rebranded as Heavy Seas. Hang out at the bar, grab a burger from Koopers food truck or play cornhole in the game room. On Saturdays, listen for the bell ringing in the taproom for free tours. They also hold charity fundraisers and work with local artists who design the unique beer can graphics. The brewery has big plans this season to redesign the outdoor space with new landscaping and a patio area.

Guinness Open Gate Brewery

5101 Washington Boulevard

Halethorpe

As the first-ever Guinness brewery in the United States, this historic site was home to a distillery before the Dublin-based brewer arrived in 2017. Experience traditional and seasonal flavors made with hops from all over the world, as well as locally sourced ingredients. Most brews are made with Legacy Ale Yeast, used by Guinness for 100 years. Be sure to try the signature Baltimore Blonde, brewed here exclusively. Enjoy the three-acre outdoor beer garden, outdoor kitchen, taproom, restaurant, events such as summer movie nights, 30-minute tastings of four different beers, and free tours.

Farmacy Brewing

3100 Black Rock Road

Reisterstown

Deep within Baltimore County’s horse country, this working farm raises horses and cattle, and grows hay, fruits, vegetables and row crops. This family-run brewery resides at the gorgeous Willowdale Farm, where a 3.5-barrel brewhouse is open for tours. Surrounded by horse pastures, barns and acres of farmland, a nine-stall horse stable was converted into a tasting room. Guests can picnic and enjoy the day strolling through a beautiful orchard.

Read More
Battle of the Crustaceans: Lobsters vs. Crabs
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Best Region for the Season

lobster - this or that - marinalife
Courtesy of Justine G

Lobster

New England and Canada are known as major lobster hubs along the Atlantic, and Maine is one of the most famous regions in the world for these mouth-watering delicacies. For the freshest catch, Maine's top lobster-loving towns include Rockland, Bar Harbor, Belfast, Georgetown, Harpswell, Kennebunk and Ogunquit.

Crab

More than 6,000 species of crabs across the world vary in everything from appearance to taste. For example, Maryland crab fans meticulously pick the meat from under the crab's shell, while in Florida, they split open the legs and claws for a tasty treat. To experience the best Maryland blue crabs, visit cities such as Baltimore and Annapolis, as well as Kent Island on the Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore and Solomons Island in southern Maryland.

Habitat

crab - this or that - marinalife
Blue Crab | Courtesy of Pakhnyushchy

Lobster

Although they are mostly ocean creatures, lobsters do frequently appear on land and sea. They are omnivores and sometimes eat their own when confined or stressed. You can find them throughout the world's oceans in freshwater and brackish environments. Some of the most delicious species are caught in the Gulf of Maine and along coastal Nova Scotia.

Crab

Typically found in saltwater or brackish water, thousands of different crab species live in all of the world's oceans. Like lobsters, some are land-crawlers. Many solely live in the water and others inhabit the edges along rocks and sandy shores. The best crustacean havens for crabbing include Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. Florida stone crabs are found in southern waters in shallow, rocky locations including knee-deep seagrass beds and reefs.

Traditional Recipes

Lobster

The sweet taste of lobster pairs well with your taste buds in any variation. Cook it in a gamut of dishes from steaming, grilling or boiling, to chopped-up in a warm soup or cold salad. Some of the most famous classics include a New England lobster boil, baked lobster tail, lobster mac and cheese, creamy bisque and much more.

Crab

Pick-and-eat crab feasts are a beloved pastime across the mid-Atlantic region. Catch, steam, season, crack open and scarf down! Use a mallet to break the claws open and get the good thick meat. Two varieties of crab soup creamy or tomato-based are popular along the East Coast, as well as dishes such as crab dip, crab Rangoon, crab pretzels and best of all the world-famous Maryland crab cakes.

Fun Facts

lobster - this or that - marinalife
Lobster Dish | Courtesy of BDMcIntosh

Lobster

Lobsters actually have two stomachs and can detach a limb and grow it back during their molting cycle. Today, lobsters are among the pricier seafood selections and are considered a delicacy, but that wasn't always the case. In early 19th century New England, lobsters were so abundant that their shells were used as fertilizer and their meat was fed to pigs as scraps.

Crab

Crabs are typically an aggressive crustacean and often fight with other crabs and aquatic creatures. They can walk in any direction and mostly scurry sideways. Unlike lobsters that can live to age 100, Atlantic crabs only survive for three to four years. Dungeness Crabs from Alaska can live up to 13 years, and the Japanese spider crab has the longest lifespan of all its fellow crustaceans, often reaching 80 to 100 years old.

Read More

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