a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blue crab for Thanksgiving

Crab meat, originally uploaded by Scott Beveridge.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – A stranger turned to me this afternoon while shopping at the local fish market for canned blue crab meat and asked if I knew the difference between the brands.

It was a strange encounter for me, a guy who was raised in a humble blue collar family that associated good seafood with Tuna Helper or Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks.

“It all tastes the same,” I responded. And then I pointed to the more-expensive cans of lump meat and said, “That just looks better in a crab cake.”

He appeared to be relieved by my advice, buying every bit of it as I grabbed what was on special – if you could call it a deal at $13 per 16 oz. can. He then picked up a can of the lump meat that cost an additional $10.

Now I confess to not being anything close to an expert on blue crab meat. I spent just one afternoon several years ago crabbing along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and watched with amazement while a local kid plucked every last bit of meat from our catch of while I fumbled over the few crabs I attempted to gut.

When it all went together as stuffing for fresh-caught flounder, no one was dissecting the dish to identify the backfin. Blue crab, whether canned or fresh, is always a delicacy.

Our family long ago bought the story about the Pilgrims dining with friendly Indians during their first harvest celebration on turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. That story defined our Thanksgiving dinners even until the day a decade ago when my young niece told us a story about the Pilgrims arriving in America aboard “The Sunflower.”

Historians today know better, and assume that seafood was plentiful and typically on the menu when those honored settlers dined before, during and after the first Thanksgiving in 1621. After learning that lesson, I decided to honor the Pilgrims by introducing the blue crab to our Thanksgiving meals several years ago, first in a she-crab soup and later in a simple snacking dip.

Tomorrow, we will try crab-stuffed mushrooms while giving thanks for those of us who have weathered this recession while still being employed. A few of the kids don’t know it yet, but they will be stopping by a soup kitchen to make a donation.

Here is the recipe for the mushrooms that will be on our table:


2 packages of large stuffing mushrooms
½ can of beer
2 tablespoons of butter

Stuffing mix:

1 16 oz. can of blue crab meat
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 5 oz. package of garlic and cheese salad croutons
½ pound of shredded domestic Parmesan cheese
2 small packets of mayonnaise
Juice of ½ lemon
Season to taste: old bay seasoning, chili sauce or ground red pepper – whatever floats your Mayflower


Remove stems from mushrooms and set them aside

Smash croutons and combine stuffing ingredients into a medium sized bowl. Save some of the crouton dust to sprinkle atop the mushrooms after they are stuffed. Generously stuff the mushrooms and place them tightly, face up, into a lasagna dish. Add around the cold butter and pour in the beer to a depth of about ½ inch. Cover with foil and cook in a 350-degree oven for about hour or until you think they look done. Tip: form leftover stuffing into cakes and freeze them to cook and eat at a later date

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