august 14, 2019
In Virginia and Maryland, the blue crab capitals of the Eastern seaboard, there are two types of crab aficionados. Those who grab a pile of crabs, spread them out on newspaper and then pick for hours on end and those like me who like our crabmeat in a nice little tub labeled “jumbo lump”.
Honestly, I cannot fathom why one would pick when one can simply purchase the already picked lumps of briny sweet crabmeat, mostly free of shell and definitely free of hard labor. A little pricey, for certain, but worth every penny. Real blue crab lumps are a little shaggy with dabs of the yellow tomalley; shops selling jumbo lump bits that are perfect diamonds with a tiny red tip are offering foreign crab that will perform as required in a recipe but the sweetness and tender texture are missing.
My favorite way to eat blue crab is unadorned, perhaps scattered over a bright summer salad, or barely held together with a little mayonnaise in a good crab cake. My local roadside stand is telling me the good corn will peter out by the first week of September, so if I wanted to make a hearty crab chowder, now is the time. This is not a powerfully flavored recipe since blue crabmeat is delicate and can be easily overpowered. You are welcome to spice things up a bit with hot peppers and whatever makes your taste buds sing with joy, but here the crab and corn reign supreme and the only background flavor is from fresh thyme. If you’re looking for spicy spice, make my Coconut Corn Avocado Soup and add the tender crabmeat at the end to either the hot soup or when it’s chilled. Jumbo lump crab would also be tasty folded into my Basil Pesto Corn, or atop my Green Curry Corn Tomato Salad. Corn and crab make the perfect summer marriage.
This is not a make-ahead recipe but in a pinch the flavor remains on day two. If pressed for time, you could make the base one day ahead and add the crabmeat just before heating and serving.
Yes, even though the humidity and high temperatures continue to cause swelteration (this new word seems right to me, somehow), I still like a hot meal enjoyed with company and this chowder hits the spot.
Crab Corn Chowder
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes four entree servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ medium sweet onion, diced
½ sweet pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
finely ground white pepper
1 tablespoon loose fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped to release flavor
kernels from two ears fresh sweet corn, uncooked
8 ounces baby red potatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ cup vegetable stock
optional for thickening : 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
8 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat
garnish, if desired : more fresh thyme leaves
- In heavy two quart saucepan, melt butter and add onion, pepper and celery with pinches of kosher salt and white pepper, stirring to coat over medium high heat.
- When mixture begins to sizzle, turn heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until all is tender, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add thyme leaves, stir about 10 seconds, then add corn, potatoes, cream and stock.
- Bring to simmer and turn heat to low, stirring occasionally, cooking until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- At this point, thicken if desired by adding cornstarch to 2 tablespoons tap water, stirring well, and adding this mixture by gently whisking into center of the chowder.
- Cook gently one more minute to remove starchy taste, then add crabmeat, stirring very gently and heating a few more minutes.
- If thickening not desired, add crabmeat after adjusting seasoning.
- Serve immediately; if pressed for time, make chowder up until point that seafood is added, up to one day, then gently reheat and add crab.