Food

Maryland Crabs & Corn

The Essential Ingredients of a Chesapeake Summer

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.

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, 3-5 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 6-7 mounds of batter by tablespoon into hot oil. Cook until golden brown, about 1-2 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

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 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 saute for about 5 minutes. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.

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

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The Choptank
Baltimore, MD

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Where to Dock:  The Sagamore Pendry Hotel & Dock

Watershed

Baltimore, MD

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Annapolis, MD

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Deltaville Tap & Raw Bar
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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. 

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Heavy Seas Brewery

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Guinness Open Gate Brewery | Photo by Alexa Zizzi

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