i couldn’t leave baltimore (there for the first time in over a decade) without getting some seafood. and get some seafood i did!
thanks to the TripAdvisor app, i found the #5 highest-rated restaurant (which happens to be very close to Fort McHenry), L.P. Steamers, and popped on in around 3:10 PM* after not eating or drinking anything all day except for a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee at 9 in the morning. suffice it to say, i was hongray. however, i had no idea what i was going to be in for.
* by this time they were warning people that they were starting to run out of crab, so if you go, the safest bet would be around lunchtime to ensure they have crab available.
what i walked into was this (apologies for the blurry pictures):
i’ve never been to such a uhh, crabby place before! people had tables piled high with crabs and crab pieces, banging away at them with mallets. clearly, they were experts. if i eat crab, it’s usually at Chinese banquets, and admittedly, i’m not the best at getting the meat out of even those pre-cut pieces. intimidated, it was too late to turn back now. i was curious and famished — always a recipe for culinary adventures!
luckily i was seated upstairs (the only one for most of my stay), so even if i made a fool of myself, no one would be there to see. as i waited, a friend tweeted me this video:
definitely some help, but i wasn’t sure i wanted to try playing the video while attempting to follow along, potentially splattering crab juice all over me and my phone (they don’t give you bibs or a nutcracker!).
in the meantime, my soup (Maryland-style crab soup) and entree (the fried sampler) arrived and i went to town. the soup was delicious, even though i’m not normally a fan of tomato-based soups (had i known beforehand, i would have gotten the cream of crab, but i’m glad i tried this, not only because it has my top two favorite vegetables, onion and corn). the platter was daunting, but the best part was the crab cake. i’m a pretty big fan of crab cakes, so while i’m no foodie, i’d like to think i know when i’ve had a good one. and this was hella good.
Maryland Crab Soup
Fried Sampler: crab cake, fried clams, fried oysters, fried shrimp, fried scallops, slaw, fries
and then the crab came. unceremoniously slid off a tray onto my table, it just sat there, staring at me, me staring at it. (smaller than i expected, which was good given how much of that fried sampler i just ate.)
luckily the waiter came and asked if i needed a lesson. i said i watched a video, but a lesson would be great. much to my delight, he actually did most of the work for me!
"First you split off the legs, then you..." (I lost him after that, especially after he said, "These are the lungs; you just scrape them aside.")
when all was said and done, maybe it’s because i just watched Alien a couple weeks ago, but all i could think about was the facehugger.
And this is how he left it for me. Not cute.
but, knowing how delicious crab meat is, i dug right in. a little hammering with the mallet, a little cracking of shell with my fingers, and before you know it, i was all done! (the best tip from that video really helped: use a claw as a hook to pull meat out of tight spaces.)
sure, my hands still smell crabby five hours later, but it was well worth it. i was stuffed when i left, but hearing the people who just arrived at the next table order six large crabs and two jumbo crabs (along with an order of oysters and some beer — if i heard right, they just cleaned them out of all their crab for the day) made me want to sit down and order another. it’s a two hour drive; maybe next weekend i’ll make another trip down and this time try cracking the shell myself.
p.s. do you think it’s rude if i bring a container of Old Bay Seasoning with me next time i go to a Chinese banquet? i forgot how good that stuff is!