A rich and decadent-feeling soup that is made even heartier with the addition of lots of vegetables and topped off with a pour of dry sherry that takes it over the top.
I grew up near the Chesapeake Bay and crab was always on the menu in one form or another in the summertime. And it almost always had Old Bay Seasoning in it or on it! When I moved cross-country to San Diego while in my twenties, I really missed not just the crab, but the Old Bay Seasoning, too! We used to use it for many things: fried chicken batter, soups and stews, French fries, mashed potatoes, and my very favorite was cream cheese dip with Old Bay! Total YUM! So, everytime I went back home to visit, I would bring back a tin can or two of the stuff. Yes, it was always sold in a tin vessel and continued to be until fairly recently. They finally succumbed to the cheapness and lightness of plastic, much to my dismay. That means I will be transferring the spice into a glass jar from now on, I suppose. Or maybe experimenting with making my own… hmmm…
But, I digress. There were two types of crab soups that were traditional in the Chesapeake area as well as in my household; Maryland style crab soup, which was a brothy soup with vegetables and crab parts, and then there was what we called “She-Crab” soup, which was a creamy soup made with female crabs traditionally. Now, don’t fret. My dad made sure we always obeyed the rules of throwing back any pregnant females, and usually any females at all. But I believe there was a certain time of year when you could keep female crabs and that was just another part of what made “she-crab” soup so special.
Traditionally “She-Crab” soup was a rich, sherry-infused alchemy of fresh crabmeat and cream. The coral-colored roe (eggs) from the female crab were stirred in to give it an umami depth of flavor that was way ahead of its time. As a substitute, many home cooks crumbled yolks of hard-cooked eggs in the bottom of the soup plate before serving.
Here, I have decided to use the essence of “She-Crab” soup and create a chowder instead. If you know me, you know that I have to add more vegetables to almost everything and this is not exception. A thick, decadent chowder with potatoes, corn, carrots, and green beans, this soup brings me back with it’s flavors but fills you up with vegetables instead of so much richness. I can’t get Maryland crab here in Arizona (unless I pay big bucks during crab season!) so I purchase my lump crab from Costco here and use it wisely!
I hope you will try this recipe. And if you do, please let me know in the comments below or snap a pic and hit me up on Instagram. I would love to hear from you!
Vegetable Crab Chowder
- 1 pound lump crab meat divided - can substitute shelled shrimp
- 1-3 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning divided, depending on spice desired - can substitute 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, divided - I used 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 stalks celery chopped fine
- 1/2 cup red, yellow or orange bell pepper chopped, reserve 2 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon thyme fresh or dried
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 2 tablespoons flour I use white rice flour
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth can substitute chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1 cup chopped yellow or red potatoes
- 1 cup fresh green beans cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 1/2 cups cream or milk can use cream, half and half, whole milk or 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 1/2 cups corn kernals fresh or frozen
- 1-2 tablespoons basil leaves chopped or chiffonade
- reserved corn kernals
- reserved bel pepper pieces
- optional bacon slices crumbled
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- Put crabmeat into a small skillet and stir in 1 tablespoon of the Old Bay seasoning. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan or a soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 2 minutes. Then add celery and bell peppers and cook a few minutes more. Then add another 1 tablespoon of Old Bay, thyme and celery seed. Stir in well.
- Make an empty space in the center of your pot and add another tablespoon of oil or butter and the 2 tablespoons flour. Stir the flour into the fat till it makes a light roux. Slowly add the broth and the water, stirring, until well incorporated.
- Add the carrots, potatoes and green beans (and any other vegetable you may be adding except for corn) and cook gently until the vegetables are tender or to your liking.
- Slowly add the cream or milk and cook over medium heat until it thickens.
- While vegetables are cooking, saute the crabmeat gently - just enough to warm - in the skillet.
- Remove a few tablespoons of the crabmeat (reserve this for garnish), and add the rest with the corn to the pot and turn down to low. Warm gently. Stir in 1/4 cup of sherry, if using, just before serving.
- Serve with reserved bell peppers, crab and basil on top and some additional sherry to add to each bowl, if desired. A sprinkling of Old Bay on top is always a welcome addition.