Maryland designated the blue crab as its state crustacean and it appears to have been widely accepted as the unofficial mascot of the Chesapeake Bay. It is estimated that anywhere between one-third to one-half of the nation’s crab harvest comes from the Chesapeake Bay.
|Female blue crab (note the painted "nails.")|
Blue crabs are named so because of the brilliant blue color on their front claws (females have red tips –as if they painted their finger nails). But these delicious sea creatures also play the vital role of environmental health indicator. Blue crabs are extremely sensitive to environmental and habitat changes, and many populations, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay, have experienced drastic declines. Blue crabs also play a key role in managing the populations of the animals they prey on, and constant overharvesting has had wide-ranging negative effects on the ecosystems they inhabit. The past efforts to clean-up the Chesapeake Bay have been rewarded with increased populations of blue crab as well as other commercially and recreationally important aquatic organisms.
Crab is a very versatile food, from being the highlight in the ever-popular crab cakes to enhancing a fillet mignon by being piled on top. One of my favorite crab dishes is crab dip. The recipe below is a combination of sweet crab meat interspersed with salty cheese and spicy jalapenos. This simple dish works great as an appetizer or a dish for a pot-luck dinner. Feel free to assemble the night before and refrigerate overnight (just let it come to room temperature before placing in the oven). Enjoy!
HOT JALAPENO CRAB DIP
1 pound lump crab meat
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
½ cup chopped pickled jalapenos
¼ pound Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup mayonnaise
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (or parmesan cheese)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the crabmeat, garlic, jalapenos, Monterey Jack, Worcestershire, hot sauce, salt, and mayonnaise in a medium-size mixing bowl. Toss gently until mixed. Spoon the mixture into an oven-proof bowl and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, approximately 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit 5 minutes.