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Cooking with Crab - Cookbook Review

Best-Loved Recipes and Menus From Chesapeake Bay Gourmet

by Margie Kauffman

(QVC Publishing, 2000)

Cooking with Crab features a number of easy-to-follow recipes for making crab dishes at home

It's summer ... do you know where your crab is? Well, Margie Kauffman thinks you should. And she thinks it shouldn't be down at your local seafood shack or beachside bistro. She thinks it should be right in your own dining room after having been prepared right in your own kitchen.

Unfortunately, U.S. seafood advisory boards have found otherwise. They've determined that less than 5 percent of us ever attempt to prepare seafood. We're too intimidated by the process, we've told their surveys, and that's just in regards to a fillet of fish, sautéed or simply in a pan. When it comes to — what are perceived as challenging — crustaceans like lobster or crab or moody mollusks like clams or oysters, well, the percentages are almost nonexistent. Fortunately, that's where Kauffman comes in.

Kauffman, longtime owner of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Gourmet (which sells through QVC what a number of reviewers have called the nation's best crab cakes via mail order), will tell you just about everything you need to know to tame your crab and whip him into shape. Here's the biggest secret of all (and it goes even more for plain old fish): preparation is easy! In many cases, it's easier than the preparation of our old culinary friends meat or poultry.

If crab is intimidating you, it's kind of like being intimidated by a pound of hamburger wrapped in cellophane. As Kauffman's recipes highlight, we don't have to crack the crab and harvest the meat ourselves; that can be our supermarket fish manager's job. All her recipes simply include crab meat as an ingedient. What kind you use is your choice — similar to your choice of grade of beef for a meat recipe. Kauffman describes them:

Top-of-the-line is 'jumbo lump' crab meat, the large white succulent chunks of completely cleaned, solid crab meat taken from the main shell that are prized for premium crab cakes or any fancy crab dish. You only get two pieces of jumbo lump per crab.

'Backfin' crab meat, as its name implies, is the white body meat taken from the backfin section of the crab. It will have some large lump pieces and some broken body meat with a few shell pieces and it's also ideal for crab cakes, crab imperial or other crab dishes.

The 'special' grade refers to smaller, white 'flake meat' from the entire body and center parts of the crab, as well as a minimum amount of backfin and jumbo lump. It always needs to be picked over carefully to remove any shell or cartilage. It's used in crab cakes, soups, casseroles or dips.

'Claw meat' is slightly brownish with a somewhat sweeter taste that's delicious in soups, dips and chowders. It also makes an economical crab cake for large gatherings. You'll find it, too, in crab cakes served by small coffee shops.

Most cooks, Kauffman remarks, use a blend of crab meat (which always needs to have been cooked before use in a recipe) and we should always pick through it carefully to remove any small pieces of shell or cartilage. Once you purchase your crab meat, you can use it to make Kauffman's delightful crab cakes, hot crab dip, deviled crab, lime-marinated crab and shrimp, asparagus and crab quiche or crab Benedict (a version of eggs Benedict).

If you want to enjoy steamed crabs or soft-shell crabs, the process is incredibly simple, as evidenced in the recipe for fried soft-shell crabs in beer batter. Kauffman also gives plenty of non-crab recipes as part of complete menus she has designed around the crab specialties.

Lime-Marinated Crab and Shrimp
Fried Soft-Shell Crabs in Beer Batter


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