Nothing to be Crabby About

One thing about culinary school – you forget the beauty of simplicity. Not that you never learn about simple dishes, like how to properly prepare a hard boiled egg or make fresh whipped cream. But a lot of emphasis is on the more complicated meals. Why go to culinary school if you were taught to make PB&J sandwiches instead of roasted venison with huckleberry jus?

I had a wonderfully simple meal this weekend, and. My family has always had a boat on the Chesapeake Bay, and I ventured out with my parents for "a day on the bay" and a meal at Mike's Crab House, a restaurant located in Riva, Maryland, just outside Annapolis.

We docked the boat at the end of Mike's long pier, and headed into the restaurant. It was a spectacular Fall day, so we decided to sit at one of the wooden tables outside. I was intent on ordering crab cakes (Mike's meaty crab cakes are perfectly spiced with Old Bay seasoning and are absolutely wonderful). Still, my father was able to sway the family in the direction of steamed crabs, because the crab season was ending.

I was hesitant. I hadn't eaten steamed crabs in awhile, and remembered that picking the meat from the hardy shell was a laborious process. The long swath of dark brown paper that the waiter unfurled on the table gave warning of the messy task to come. Yet when I cracked into the first Old Bay-caked claw and extracted the sweet crab meat, all doubts disappeared. It was simply wonderful in a way that crab cakes, as good as they are at Mike's, can never be. The vinegar and extra Old Bay seasoning that are served on the side for dipping creates a clean but complex flavor combination – the sweetness of crab meat, bite of Old Bay and tang of vinegar. The steamers were divine, eaten with the accompaniments of simply on their own.

Luckily, a crab feast is something that is easy to prepare at home if you're not Maryland-bound anytime soon. Here in New York, an excellent place to start is Sea Breeze Fish Market (9th Ave & 40th St, 212.563.7537). It’s not for prissy shoppers – the floors are slick, many of the fish are whole and you may emerge smelling of the ocean – but it has a superior variety of items at affordable prices. Two big buckets of live crabs greet you when you walk in the door, ready to be doused in seasoning and steamed (call for market prices). Make sure the crabs you select are living – like clams and mussels, crabs should never be dead prior to cooking. Sea Breeze also sells the Old Bay spice necessary for seasoning.

After you've brought home the crustaceans, keep them alive! Store the crabs in a cool, moist area, like the bottom of a cooler lined with ice and covered with wet paper towels. The ideal temperature for storing crabs is 50 F, and the average 36 F temperature of a fridge will ultimately kill them. It's an okay environment for awhile, but plan on cooking the creatures on the day of purchase.

I could detail a recipe myself, but I would like to defer to David Rosengarten's crab feast article on msnbc.com. The "Baltimore Spice" blend that he recommends is terrific, as is the extensive information on how to prepare and serve crabs.

Enjoy!

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            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
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            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
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            • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
            • Located in Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia.
            • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
            • Hosts regular career fairs for employer recruitment.
            • Has student housing available.
            • Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
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            Salter College , West Boylston
            • Offers training programs in preparation for professional careers in business, health care, and computers.
            • Provides associate and certificate programs in medical assisting, massage therapy, culinary arts, and more.
            • Places students in externships to gain real world experience before completing their respective program.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
            • 2 campuses in Chicopee and West Boylston, Massachusetts.
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            L'Ecole Culinaire , Kansas City
            • Offers educational opportunities for the aspiring, career-minded chef.
            • Students are trained by professional chefs and spend the majority of their final term working in the campus restaurant to learn all phases of the culinary industry.
            • St. Louis campus offers new Food Truck Entrepreneurship courses.
            • Has a student-run food truck that tours around St. Louis.
            • All campuses have a public restaurant where food is prepared and served by students.
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            Sullivan University is a private institution of higher learning dedicated to providing educational enrichment opportunities for the intellectual, social and professional development of its students. The institution offers career-focused curricula with increasing rigor from the certificate through diploma, associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. Throughout those curricula, the university seeks to promote the development of critical thinking, effective verbal and written communication, computer literacy, and teamwork as well as an appreciation for life-long learning, cultural diversity and the expression of professionalism in all activities. At the graduate level, the university also seeks to promote a culture of research.