Recently I had the opportunity to attend the wedding of one of my sorority sisters in coastal Maryland.
Though the wedding was clearly all about her and her husband, for me it also couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d been pulling long days at work for the past couple of months at work. In my field long hours are often par for course, but this time my schedule was running me beyond ragged, even to the point of making me sick. Some rest and relaxation were must needed. The wedding was the perfect opportunity to take a break from the grind of my worklife and reconnect with friends, including one of my college roommates and her new-ish husband.
All and all, despite being a girl who normally never goes gaga over weddings, I had a fantastic time. Hanging out with my friends was exactly what I needed and refreshed me in a way that few things outside of cooking can do.
Normally whenever I travel for anything, weddings included, I usually try to squeeze in a bit of culinary tourism. I’ll hit up a food market here, an elusive restaurant there. This time doing so was a bit challenging. Work had cut my trip short, so I was only in Maryland for a little over 24 hours. But I remained undeterred. After traveling some 700 miles I was definitely going to experience some of the Maryland food culture.
And course I had one food in mind….crab. Because nothing says Maryland in my mind like crab. I knew I didn’t have time to sit down somewhere and properly enjoy a crab feast, but I did have time to pick up some to bring home. Knowing that locals often provide the best foodie recommendations, I polled some of the guests at the wedding and came up with the perfect place to obtain my crustaceans.
The Annapolis Seafood Market. I ordered a half bushel of crabs and the awesome employees set to work packing them so they would be able to weather my flight. Meanwhile I wandered the cute store, which was well stocked with fresh lobster, an assortment of oysters, and a beautiful case of pre-made crab cakes and other goodies. The store smelled sweetly of sea, just like a good seafood shop should.
A couple of hours later I found myself back in Chicago with my 1/2 bushel crabs, which had weathered the trip perfectly.
So what did I do first with my crab stash? I made big pot of Maryland Crab Chowder.
Punctuated with chunks of sweet crab, juicy shrimp, and smokey bacon this soup absolutely hit the spot and was the perfect thing to make first. I loved how the broth was lightly creamy from the milk, rather than heavy and gravy-like as some chowders can sometimes be. I ate it on it’s own, though it would also be fantastic with a biscuit to sop up every last drop of the sweet and creamy broth.
Adapted from The Bacon Cookbook
-4 slices lean streaky bacon, cut into small pieces
-2 medium onions, diced
-4 medium yukon gold potatoes, diced
-1 stalk celery, sliced
-1 cup dry white wine
-7 cups 2% milk
-¾ pound fresh crab meat, carefully picked over for shells and cartilage
-¾ pound small fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
-Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
-Sweet paprika, for sprinkling
In a large, heavy saucepan, fry the bacon over moderate heat and drain on paper towels. Add the onions, potatoes, celery and wine to the fat in the pan, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook till the wine has evaporated and the potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Add the milk and salt and pepper and return the mixture to a simmer. Add the crabmeat, shrimp, and bacon, return to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes, stirring.
Serve the chowder in soup bowls sprinkled with paprika.