Blog - biscuits and such
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Steamed Crabs

Last year my friend Jamie taught Dan and I how to pick crabs the Maryland way. Jamie is a very particular person who feels as strongly as crabs as I do about barbeque. He believes passionately that there is a correct way to steam, pick, and eat fresh blue crabs. And because he’s the expert (and I came to the table with no opinions about crabs), we do as he says. Since he converted us to whole-crab lovers Dan and I have eaten them a few more times, but hadn’t made the jump to preparing them ourselves.

Thankfully Jamie, along with many of our friends and family, see Biscuits and Such as the perfect excuse to experiment in the kitchen, be adventurous, try new things. And while he had grown up watching his parents and grandparents steam crabs he hadn’t actually replicated the process by himself. He suggested it, Dan and I enthusiastically agreed, and this past labor day we tried our hand at steamed crabs.

The Keffer family method goes something like this- combine water, a few seconds’ pour of vinegar, and most of a can of Natty Boh in a large pot. In the steamer basket layer live crabs and a combination of spices. As you can see, this is often more difficult than it sounds.

Most people in the mid-Atlantic will agree that a steamed crab is not a steamed crab without a generous dose of Old Bay, the magical spice blend invented by Jewish immigrant Gustav Brunn (who will soon be immortalized in paper doll form by the ever-amazing Lisa Perrin & the JMM). Old Bay is a mixture of salt, pepper, red pepper, black pepper, and about a thousand other things making its recipe impossible to copy (the genius of Gustav Brunn). Jamie’s recipe combined a thick coating of Old Bay with mustard powder, mustard seed, salt, red pepper, and celery seed.

Once the water has been brought to a boil the crabs start the steaming process (lid on), and 15-20 minutes later, once the crabs are bright red, you’re ready to pick and enjoy!

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A Day for Pie

Yesterday was the second annual B’Eat More Pie Fest, a feat that means we have officially created an annual pie festival. I am exhausted, proud beyond words, and incredibly grateful to this community for making such an awesome event possible. Baltimore, you rock my world.

We had 30 pies entered in the contest (10 more than last year), between 250-300 pie lovers attend (much more than last year), and we are going to be able to donate $700 to Heart’s Place, the family shelter that the fest supports (significantly more than last year). All because people love pie.

We could not possibly have pulled off such an incredible day without the judges, musicians, vendors, sponsors, and volunteers who donated their time. We are so lucky to have a group of people who wanted to lend us their talents, palates, and Sunday afternoons. And a huge, giant, crusty thank you goes out to the 2640 Collective for supporting the fest and letting us hold this homage to pie in their amazingly breathtaking space.

It’s crazy to think that something this magnificent hatched in a long car ride home, but somehow we’ve made it happen twice. We’re already planning next year, so hold on to your hats!

photos by dan & elena

Peach & Ginger Pie

pie dough:

2 1/2 cups all p flour

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp powdered ginger

1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold

1 1/2 stick cold butter

1/4-1 cup ice water

filling:

6 peaches, a combination of ripe and unripe

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbsp fresh ginger

Corn starch

1 egg

Brown sugar

Sift dry ingredients.  Add shortening and break it up with your hands as you start to coat the flour.  Add butter and work it in until it resembles coarse corn meal.  You should be able to pinch the dough together to form chunks.  Add the ice water, a little at a time, stirring in with a wooden spoon  Only add as much as it takes to make a ball.  Any more than that and you will be left with chewey crust.  However, make sure you’re using enough for your dough to hold together.

Form a ball and divide it in half.  Cover each half with saran wrap and flatten into a disc shape.  Pop in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Combine water, sugar, and ginger in a medium sauce pan. Heat until sugar dissolves. Let cool.

Peel peaches. Slice. Toss the peaches in syrup.

Roll out your bottom pie dough and place in pan.  Coat the bottom crust with a layer of corn starch. This will help the filling stay solid as the peaches release their juices. Depending on how juicy your peaches are add more corn starch. For a group of juicy peaches I put 1/4 inch layer of corn starch on the bottom. Toss your sliced peaches in an additional two tablespoons of corn starch. Scoop filling into bottom crust..  Roll your top pie dough out and, using a knife or a pastry knife, cut into strips.  Overlap the strips in a lattice pattern.  Whisk egg, and brush egg over the top of the pie.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350.

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Peach & Gin(ger) Tonic

Twice last week I got to dip and participate in MICA’s freshman orientation. As an Alumni Council member and a local alum I get asked to come and mingle, speak, and connect with the current students pretty frequently. It’s one of the best things about being in Baltimore, getting to meet the up and coming stars, getting to give my advice, whatever it’s worth. Standing there on Sunday talking about the art of the critique, watching the wind blow and seeing all the excited 17 and 18 year olds in carefully selected outfits I couldn’t help dwell on my own first day of college. The anxiety, the half joking plead to my father to keep driving, to just take me home, the Sanitary Fishmarket shirt I chose because what screams I’M FROM NORTH CAROLINA more than a Sanitary shirt, right? All the nerves, the excitement, the disbelief that I was THERE. That I had made it to art school.

Every fall, walking around Bolton Hill, I think about those first days of the school year. It’s the curse of fall, isn’t it? The change of weather has an almost visceral effect, flashing us back to early mornings waiting for the bus and ice breakers and cold dawns followed by hot sunsets. The feeling of excitement that a new chapter is starting, but sadness that the endless days of summer are over. Even now, free from the binds of a school schedule, I find myself eager to slip on jeans in the cool mornings, but clinging to the tastes of summer. Sipping a cocktail bursting with fresh peaches and savoring the season while it lasts.

Peach & Gin(ger) Tonic

ginger simple syrup:

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

2 tbsp fresh ginger

cocktail:

1 oz ginger syrup

1/2 peach, cubed

1 oz gin

Tonic

Sprinkle of sugar

To make your syrup combine all ingredients in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, once the sugar has dissolved, cut the heat. Let cool.

To make the cocktail mash together peaches and a sprinkle of sugar. Combine with gin and syrup. Top with tonic, and serve.

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