I enjoy my grill and especially like to fire it up for seafood. As a mom of three grilling dinner makes an evening much more pleasurable—less dishes to clean, the great flavor, less cooking time, it’s healthy, and it is a great American pastime. You get the picture. But there is one real hang up to this image of grilling bliss, and it’s that (GULP!) my kids aren’t big fans of grilled seafood...
Ok. So, that’s the truth. They just aren’t big fans, but as a person who has always loved seafood I was determined to turn this around. I wanted to for so many reasons:
1. Seafood is healthy 2. Seafood is an experience 3. I’m an owner of a seafood company.
Maybe number three was a little bit of my ego talking, but at the bottom of it all, I just wanted my kids, and for that matter the people around me, to appreciate and share in how delicious seafood in all its forms could really be.
Now to give you some background, my kids eat hard crabs, crab cakes, and crab meat. That was never an issue and probably because they’d been doing it since they were babies. But the rest, such as shrimp, lobster, and fish—well, that was a different story.
So after some thought, I decided that the best way to turn my kids onto grilled seafood was for the introductory dish to have two qualities: taste out of this world and be entertaining (like maybe they would be so enthralled they’d forget it was seafood?).
After some thought, I choose—grilled stuffed shrimp. Click here to buy stuffed shrimp!
Stuffed shrimp is exactly as it sounds: large butterflied shrimp stuffed with herbs, butter, and garlic between the shell and the flesh. The shrimp are then placed on a hot grill so they cook in their shells. The shrimp’s hard shell bears the brunt of the heat and burns slightly, but it doesn’t matter because it’s peeled away to reveal a tender and juicy shrimp! And that’s where the entertainment comes in. Peeling away the outer shells is lots of fun—like unwrapping a present. And even stuffing the shrimp before grilling I found was pretty engaging too.
So to make a very long story short—so you can get your shrimps on the grill—I finally got my kids eating (sampling might be a better word) grilled stuffed shrimp. Grilled fish is up next (and feel free to e-mail suggestions), but for now we are having lots of fun preparing the grilled stuffed shrimp with interesting and delicious stuffing combinations (see a list below.) And for the first time, we’re grilling and having seafood dinners together.
Grilled Buttery Herb-Stuffed Shrimp Makes 4 servings
This method of grilling shrimp–in their shells on high heat–works well: the shrimp cook fast and stay tender and juicy. Once you have mastered this technique, I suggest creating a variety of stuffings based on your favorite ingredients. This recipe is especially handy for casual gatherings where easy preparation is very important. At the table, make sure to include: napkins, as picking the shells off to get to the tender shrimp can get a little messy but oh so fun; and little bowls, for the discarded shells.
For the Stuffing: ½ cup finely chopped fresh basil ½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 medium clove garlic, finely minced 1 teaspoon kosher salt pinch freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons olive oil or softened unsalted butter
For the Shrimp: 1 pound large shrimp, or about 21 shrimp per pound, the larger the better, deveined (click here to buy fresh shrimp) and butterflied, but shells on (see note on technique below) 1 lemon cut into wedges
Heat a well-seasoned grill to medium heat.
In a medium bowl combine the basil, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil (or butter). Mix until a herb paste is created.
Stuff the herb paste between the shrimp shells and meat. Grill the shrimp for about 2 minutes per side, or until the meat turns opaque. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
How to Butterfly a Shrimp…while leaving the shells on The best way to bufferfly a shrimp while leaving its shell on is to use a pair of kitchen scissors. Start at the top and cut down the back to the tail almost the whole way through, leaving enough flesh so the shrimp is still connected. It’s far easier to cut through the shell with scissors than slicing through it with a knife. However, if you plan to use a knife, make sure it is sharp. Take care, as the shell can be slippery causing the knife to slide.
Some other stuffing ideas: Mojito Stuffed Shrimp: Mint, lime zest, olive/butter and a douse of Rum Sicilian Stuffed Shrimp: Sun dried tomatoes, garlic, olive/butter, and a splash of Red Wine Mexican Stuffed Shrimp: Cumin-or Mexican seasoning, finely Diced tomatoes, Cilantro, and olive/butter Hawaiian Stuffed Shrimp: mashed pineapples, curry, cilantro, and olive/butter Southern Stuffed Shrimp: southern bbq sauce, drop of Tabasco sauce, olive/butter My next blog entry will be: Grilled Fish!
Tonya holds the finished product...delicious steamed Maryland Blue Crabs. To make your own steamed crabs, either catch them yourself, or simple order live blue crabs from us. Watch our clip for easy and fun instructions. My brother David and his assistant Jack demonstrate how to select, season, and steam, live Maryland Blue Crabs
Beer-Steamed Blue Crabs makes 4 servings
My grandmother Edna said, “Never overcook your crabs”—steam them for 20 minutes or until they are bright red. You may want to use a proper steaming pot with an inset to get this right. When I was a kid, hard crabs were steamed immediately after being caught off our pier. They were served breakfast, lunch, and dinner with fresh buttered rye bread.
½ bushel live blue crabs (2½ dozen) 16-ounce bottle of beer (no crazy flavors, stick to mainstream brands) 4 heaping tablespoons CrabPlace.com seafood seasoning Rye bread, sliced and buttered
In a pot deep enough to accommodate all the crabs, use tongs to place the crabs in the pot. Sometimes this is difficult because the crabs may grab one another, but do the best you can. When the pot is filled with crabs, pour in the beer and the seasoning. Cover the pot tightly and place it over medium-high heat. When the beer boils, cook the crabs for 20 minutes, or until bright red. Using the tongs, carefully remove the hot crabs from the pot and place them on a strong serving tray. Line your table with several layers of newspaper, put out crab knives and mallets, and start eating. Careful, those crabs are hot!
I love watching Tonya's Grandmom pick crabmeat. She is really fast and taught me a thing or two!
Once a season, I sit down with my family and pick crabmeat for homemade crab cakes.
I learned how to do this from my grandmother Edna when I was a kid. It was enjoyable to sit around the table with everyone doing the same thing for the greater good—to produce crabmeat for the perfect homemade crab cake…
Perhaps to someone that has never experienced picking crabs for crab cakes—this might seem odd, as in, why wouldn’t you just go buy a crab cake because it’s a lot of work to pick those crabs. But, if you have ever gathered around a table for this purpose, you know it is an experience worth having at least once.
Some of you might be wondering, how long does it take to pick a bushel of crab? In our house, as recently as last week, it takes about one hour to pick a bushel of crab between 2 to 3 people. And that’s non stop with no breaks in-between. Just pure picking. If that seems fast, trust me, it is not. If you compare that to a professional picker at a crab house, there is no competition. The women (it’s all women so I am just telling it like it is) can pick 10 crabs in a minute! The style they use to pick crabs in a crab house is also most likely different than the method you use your home. It is for us. Their style is all about getting the backfin, jumbo lump and everything else is secondary. They also use a very sharp crab knife where at home we use our fingers. (if you want to see more of this technique Tonya’s video is the best example of a professional picker.) Knifes are better and will save your fingers but it takes some practice.
Ok now that you have picked the bushel, how much meat can one expect? Obviously if you are picking a bushel of larger crabs, you’ll get more meat because it is far easier to get it all out. The smaller crabs have more nooks and crannies to get into which can make it a little bit harder. In general a bushel picked by non professionals will yield about 3 pounds of crabmeat. A professional picker is expected to yield 14% of a steamed bushel, which weighs about 30-34 lb—so closer to 4 pounds.
So once you have your pile of crabmeat, it’s time to create the crab cakes. I was always taught that less is more when it comes to crab cakes because adding too many ingredients will ultimately drown out the delicate crab flavor. This is a mistake most often done in restaurants, and the reason I think is because most restaurants use foreign crabmeat, or blue swimming crab, to prepare their crab cakes. Foreign crabmeat has a flatter flavor that isn’t sweet like Maryland meat—so when using Maryland crabmeat for crab cakes, keep it simple: less is more.
Another note about making crab cakes is to treat the meat tenderly. You don’t want to over mix the crabmeat. And for that reason, I always mix everything else together first and then fold in the crabmeat last. Once the crabmeat is folded in, I prefer to bake my crab cakes because I am guaranteed perfection and I can basically leave the crab cakes alone for 20 minutes in the oven until their done. Frying crab cakes in a pan also works but does require that you stand there the entire time and some skill is involved when flipping the crab cake (think of it like a really delicate burger.)
So to sum it all up, making homemade crab cakes from crabs you have picked is worth the experience. It’s labor intensive and maybe something you do once a season. It’s a good practice to bring friends and family together and then the reward of eating a hot, delicious homemade crab cake together is what it’s all about.
Chesapeake Crab Cakes with Tartar Sauce Makes 4 Servings Using a minimal amount of filler (breadcrumbs or crackers, mayonnaise) helps the Maryland crabmeat flavor come through. It’s best to fold in the crabmeat at the last possible moment to avoid breaking it up too much. Our family motto is, “Don’t mess with it too much!” When making crab cakes, this is the best advice.
1 large egg, beaten 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 2 tablespoons finely chopped pimiento 8 no-salt saltine crackers, crushed 1 teaspoon kosher salt 2 teaspoons seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley 1 pound freshly picked lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage (click here to order our freshly picked crabmeat)
Click her to order CrabPlace.com Fancy Tartar Sauce for serving.
Preheat the oven to 400F with an oven rack set in the middle.
Prepare the crab cakes. In a medium bowl, combine the egg, mayonnaise, pimiento, half the crushed crackers, salt, seafood seasoning, and parsley. Mix well. Gently fold in the crabmeat. Avoid over-blending. Form the mixture into 4 patties, which will be fairly wet. Gently coat the patties with the remaining crackers on both sides.
Place the crab cakes on a metal sheet pan and place them in the oven to bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Half way through the cooking process turn the crab cakes around so they cook evenly. For added flavor, brush the crab cakes with butter or mayonnaise on top before baking.
Serve the crab cakes immediately with tartar sauce for dipping.
To fry your crab cakes: Choose a skillet large enough to hold all the crab cakes. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and ½ tablespoon of unsalted butter in the skillet over medium-high heat until the oil slides easily across the surface. Fry the crab cakes until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side, gently turning once with a thin metal spatula.
Traditionally, seafood is supposed to be served with white wine, specifically, dry white wine or a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, but, I cannot drink it.
For whatever reason, no matter how small the glass, white wine just doesn’t go down right. But, for those that can drink it, I have been told that the dry, crisp cold white wine is smooth and delicate and doesn’t interfere with the rich and also delicate crab cake flavor. Ok, that makes sense. So if you are a white wine drinker, make sure to pick a white wine that’s not too oaky or sweet, yet somewhere in the middle of the road. A chilled inexpensive California Chardonnay from Napa Valley or a Sauvignon Blanc from Australia or New Zealand would be fantastic.
Although if you like your white wine super sweet, my dad and mom actually drink Spätlese, which is a German wine, and swear by it. It’s the end of harvest grape and very-very sweet. It’s way over the top for me, but I do enjoy watching them drink it because they sometimes mix it with Fresca (Gulp, if you are an avid wine drinker please just look the other way on that one.)
Ok. So back to my issue of only being able to drink red wine: If you are like me and white wine is off your list, I recommend a dry red wine such as Shiraz/Syrah or a regional Italian red Wine from the towns as San Gimignano or Orvieto. Otherwise if you want a little spice in your red wine, go further south and open a Sicilian red wine from the town of Santa Margharita di Belice. If this town sounds familiar, it is where Burt Lancaster filmed the Leopard. (Do you think he enjoyed a few bottles while on site? I’ll bet.)
Additional great ideas to dressing up a crab cake are to top it before baking with either mayonnaise—which turns golden brown—or cheese, such as shredded cheddar or thinly sliced brie. Whichever soft cheese works here, so explore and experiment.
Crab cakes are also delectable served with crackers, toast, pasta, salad, seafood, cheese, along with our homemade tartar sauce. Simple is good.
However, if you aren’t baking, but frying instead, all the fancy wine talk really for me goes right out the window. After all, “crab balls” and wine just don’t groove.
Fried crab balls are best served with really cold-cold beer or chilled Sangria (see the recipe below). My favorite beers are full bodied. I am not a big beer drinker, but when I do, it’s Bass or Guinness. American Beers, such as Miller or Budweiser are also good, but you have to set a mug in the freezer so they are nice and frosty upon the first sip. My favorite Sangria is homemade and easy enough to prepare. Adjust the strength to suit your taste and the occasion.
Really, no matter what your choice for pairing with baked or fried crab cakes/balls, white, red, beer, Sangria or none, crab cakes are delicious (especially ours!) and are also perfect simply on their own. Go ahead and order a few crab cakes here and tell us your results!
Sangria 1 bottle red wine, such as: Merlot, Rioja Reds, Shiraz or Sangria 4 tablespoons maple syrup (or 2 tablespoons white sugar) 1 blood orange, cut into wedges 1 lemon, cut into wedges 1 apple, cored, and cut into wedges 2 shots your favorite Brandy 2 cups Ginger Ale
Combine the wine, maple syrup, orange, lemon, apple, and brandy in a large glass pitcher and let it soak in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. A few moments before serving add in the Ginger Ale and enjoy!
Garlic Crabs Makes 6 servings I love Garlic Crabs and prefer to prepare them with already steamed crabs. You can prepare this recipe with live crabs, but removing the shell is a bit cumbersome. However, if this doesn’t deter you, see the note below. For a tangy, sharp flavor, use raw garlic, however if you like it mild use roasted garlic instead. This is a block party favorite: hot or cold, the crabs and juices maintain their wonderful flavor.
16 steamed blue crabs ½ cup olive oil 1 big garlic head, removed the cloves from their skin (or use roasted garlic instead) 1 head cabbage, thinly sliced into ¼-inch slivers 1 cup dry white wine or water optional: 2½ tablespoons kosher salt optional: ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper optional: ½ pound unsalted butter optional: ½ cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped 1 loaf fresh bread
Prepare the steamed crabs for garlic crabs. Place your hand over the backfin leg and pull away the top shell and discard it. Remove and discard the six gills, which look like spongy fingers, and then remove their entrails, using your fingers or a knife. Once clean, tear off the crab’s mouth and any sharp shells that might be protruding. Finally, break the crab in half or leave it whole (you decide). Repeat with the remaining crabs. When all the crabs are cleaned, place the crabs in the pot along with the olive oil, garlic, cabbage, and white wine. You can add the optional salt, pepper, butter, and parsley.
Cover the stockpot and place it on a burner. Raise the heat to medium and cook the crabs until the cabbage and garlic is tender or, about 15 minutes.
Occasionally check the level of liquid, which should increase as the crabs release their juices (but if this does not happen, just make sure there is enough water to continue to cook the crabs). Stir the pot well halfway through so all the crabs get a chance to cook directly in the liquid. Serve immediately in a large bowl with fresh bread to sop up the juices.
Prepare Garlic Crabs with Live Crabs Place the live crabs in a large bucket of ice water and let them chill for 10 minutes, to stun them.
Remove the crabs from the ice water one at a time (they should be cold enough to lay in your hands) and place on a cutting board belly side up. Insert a sharp object, such as an ice pick or sharp knife, in the crab’s underside between the bottom of its mouth and the tip of its apron. This kills the crab instantly. With your fingers and the knife, unfold the crab’s apron, located in the middle of the body. Pull it back away from the body, break it off, and discard. Turn the crab over, put your thumb or the knife under the back edge of the top shell, lift it up, pull it off, and discard. Remove and discard the six gills, which look like spongy fingers, and then remove their entrails under forceful cool running water, using your fingers. Once clean, tear off the crab’s mouth and any sharp shells that might be protruding. Finally, break the crab in half or leave it whole. Repeat with the remaining crabs. The crabs are now ready and clean.
Growing up I spent summers and weekends down at the shore at my grandparents shore cottage on the Chesapeake. This is a picture of my grandfather with us (L to R: Jen, G-pop, me, David.) I have the best memories of catching crabs and fish off their pier with all my cousins. This year my aunts threw a family reunion and...burgers, hotdogs, and freshly caught Maryland blue crabs were on the menu...65 family members showed up and to take advantage I asked a few of them to demonstrate how to pick a crab. Watch our video to check it out.