September signifies a lot of things to me: Back to school, the end of summer and - my favorite - the approach of fall! I am more than happy to see summer go. I am a fall/winter kind of girl all the way. Warm sweaters, hot chocolate, clean crisp air, my favorite holidays, snow and comfort food.
The one regret I have about the end of summer is that I will no longer be able to cook with New Jersey’s wonderful bounty of produce. Tomatoes, corn, peppers, peaches, zucchini and lettuce will soon come to an end. It seems I wait all year for this beautiful, delicious array of goodness only to have it go away in the blink of an eye. I will miss making fresh tomato sauce, salsa and sweet corn and crab chowder. So with just about a month more to enjoy these gems, I will stock my freezer now so I can enjoy a taste of summer in mid-January. Here is my recipe for using two Jersey summer gems:
Sweet Corn and Crab Chowder
4 slices of bacon, cut up
2 tablespoons of butter
3/4 cup of chopped onion
1/2 cup of chopped celery
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
2 cups of chicken stock or
1-1/2 cups of diced raw potato
2-3 cups fresh Jersey corn off the cob
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning
2 cups heavy cream
1 pound of fresh crab, picked over for shell, (set aside a few pinches for garnish)
1/4 cup of sliced green onion
1-2 tablespoons of dried parsley
Cut the bacon into small pieces and sauté until cooked but not crisp. Add the butter, onion and celery and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in the flour, until well blended. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes to cook the flour. Stir in the broth a little at a time until mixture is smooth. Add the potatoes, increase heat and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring several times. Stir in the corn, seasonings and cream. Bring back up to a boil, reduce back to a simmer and gently fold in the crab. Stir in green onion and parsley; simmer for about 10 minutes or until crab is warmed through. Garnish with a pinch of crab and a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning. I love this with warm, crispy bread.
This Month's Food Feature:
Blue Claw Crabs
Growing up in South Jersey and spending a lot of my summers as a young kid at the Jersey shore, I eventually learned the craft of crabbing. Now, those of you familiar with this seashore tradition know that you basically put some bait in a trap, lower it into the water and then WAIT! Every so often, you pull up the trap and hope you find the prehistoric looking sideways walking crustaceans.
Traditionally, cooking crabs requires 3 things: a huge pot of boiling water, Old Bay seasoning and beer! As the crabs are cooking, you set the table with newspapers, paper towels and crab crackers (the utensil, not those crunchy, flaky square things). You’re set!
The crabs, when finished, get dumped onto the table and you dig in with wild abandon! Ideally, they’re hot, spicy and messy. Your fingers should turn red from the old bay and your lips should tingle while juice runs down your arms.
Some people find it too time consuming for such little reward. Crazy, I say! I have so many warm memories of crab nights surrounded by family and friends and, in my opinion, it isn't summer until you have had a batch of fresh cooked blue claw crabs.
Crab season is unfortunately very short and runs from mid-August to late September. There are varying sizes and you usually want to eat the males. You can tell the difference between the sexes by noting that the female has red tipped claws and the male, all-blue claws.
If you've never been trained in catching blue claw crabs, you can get a step-by-step guide here.
Bonus Recipe: Chef Kim’s Crab Cakes
2½ tablespoons good mayonnaise (I like Hellmann’s Real)
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 pound lump crab meat
½ cup fresh saltine cracker crumbs
Panko bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying
1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Combine the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, Old Bay, salt and parsley in a large bowl and mix well. Add the crab meat (be sure to check the meat for any hard and sharp cartilage) and cracker crumbs; gently fold mixture together until just combined, being careful not to shred the crab meat. Shape into 6 crab cakes (about ½ cup each) and place on prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hour.
3. Preheat a large nonstick pan to medium heat and coat with oil. When oil is hot, place crab cakes in pan and cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Be careful as oil may splatter. Serve immediately with tartar sauce or a squeeze of lemon.
*If you can only find jumbo lump crab meat, you may need to break the pieces up a bit. If the clumps are too large, the crab cakes won’t hold together well.