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Picking Crabs, Maryland Style


Since I moved to Maryland in 2004 I have not eaten a whole crab. I’ve eaten plenty of crab cakes, more crab dip than I’d like to admit, a few crab pretzels, and a fair amount of crab laden sushi. But no whole crabs. In fact, the only time I’ve ever had a whole crab was at my stepgrandfather’s house in high school. We were there for Pop-Pop’s birthday, and in tribute to his Baltimore roots we ate crabs. Or, rather, my family ate crabs. I got as far as a lung (nobody told it was the lung!) and decided I preferred hot dogs.



Enter my friend Jamie. Jamie comes from a long line of proud Marylanders, people who spend as much time picking apart crabs as us Carolinians do picking apart pigs. They’ve refined the process to a science, an art, and Jamie was willing to teach it to us. I had this post scheduled for later this month, but last night Pop Pop passed away. Pop Pop, or Al Hlavin, Sr, was my stepmom Jan’s father. He was a smart, kind, and much loved man. So, in honor of Pop-Pop and thanks to Jamie, I would like to present a step-by-step guide to picking crabs, the Maryland way.



Step 1: Start with a whole, steamed crab. Preferably one that has been steamed in copious amounts of Old Bay.



Step 2: Rip the claws off. Eat any meat that comes off with them.



Step 3: Use a knife, mallet, or your fingers to crack open the claws. Eat the meat inside.



Step 4: Locate the apron. This is the monument-shaped area on the underside of the crab.



Step 5: Pull the apron off by the tip. Discard.



Step 6: Pull the top of the shell off, from the top.



Step 7: Remove the organs. This is everything offcolored, squishy, etc in the middle of the crab. Next, remove the lungs (see where Jamie is pointing). Growing up, Jamie was told the lungs were called the devil. Number 1 rule of crab picking? DON’T EAT THE DEVIL.



Step 8: Break the crab in half.



Step 9: Use a knife to cut the half again.



Step 10: Enjoy! Eat the white meat, drink lots of beer!


update: the jamie keffer method of steaming blue crabs.


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Mango Smoothie

Lately, with the exception of a good hamburger, all I seem to want to eat or drink are mango smoothies.  For weeks I was ordering them everywhere I went, drinking smoothies at all times of the day like it was going out of style.

This week I wisened up.  I bought a reusable travel cup for cold beverages (coming soon: all the iced coffee I can drink) and put my immersion blender to work.  I have to say, I’ve been in smoothie heaven.  It’s my new favorite part of summer.  Besides, perhaps, my birthday tattoo (a saucer magnolia) or my new red hair.

Mango Smoothie

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1/2 cup cubed mango, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup mango juice

6-8 large ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add juice or ice as needed until you have a consistency that works for you.

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Beer Can Chicken

Also known as Beer Butt Chicken.  I’m a lady, though, so we’ll call them Beer Can Chickens.  We served two of them for our awesomely successful Seafood Boil last week for those guests that did not partake in the seafood and wanted to eat more than potato salad.  Essentially, this is what the two titles imply.  You prop a dressed chicken on top of a half full can of beer and grill.  The beer boils up into the cavity of the chicken, keeping it moist and flavorful as it cooks.  It is easy (as long as it doesn’t fall over) and delicious (even if it does).

Dan deciding on his strategy for getting the chickens on the beer.

True to form, ours fell over.  A few times.  Also, according to Dan I put too much butter on the chickens so they caught fire.  He was wrong though, there can never be too much butter.  Plus, they were just deliciously crispy.

Dan trying to put the fire out.  Me photographing the burnt chickens. Photo by Jobi Zink.

Beer Can Chicken

1 whole chicken

1/2 stick butter, softened

2 tbsp rosemary

1 tbsp salt

1 can of beer

Rub the chicken down with butter, rosemary, and salt.  Drink half the beer.  Light up the grill and prop the chicken on top of the beer so that it is in the cavity and the chicken is sitting on it.  Close the lid and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes.  Check occasionally to make sure it hasn’t fallen down.

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