It's Stuffed Crab Day. And the dish needs to be remembered. Once ubiquitous on menus all along the Gulf Coast and up the Atlantic, stuffed crabs have been shoved aside by its upscale cousin, the Baltimore-style crab cake. Crab cakes give stuffed crabs an image problem. It is the nature of a stuffed crab to contain other ingredients than crabmeat. And the crabmeat is usually claw meat, at that. The quality criterion for crab cakes, in contrast, is the percentage of lump crabmeat content.
From a flavor perspective however, a well-made stuffed crab (also known as a deviled crab) easily rivals a crab cake. The best versions have good crab flavors that comes not only from the crabmeat, but also the crab stock the bread component is wet with. Green onions, bell pepper, fresh parsley, cayenne, and even a little bacon add further interest to a good stuffed crab. I'd like to see a revival of stuffed crabs, in crab shells if possible. (Health departments don't like to see those in restaurants, which is why you see aluminum shells most of the time.)
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Use claw crabmeat, not white or lump, when you're making a stuffing. It has a more assertive flavor and it is much cheaper, to boot.
tartar sauce, n. — A cold sauce made of mayonnaise, onions, chives, pickle relish, lemon juice, and sometimes capers and a little mustard. It's served wherever simple seafood (especially fried) is found. The funny thing about tartar sauce is that it has lost any connection to whatever origin gave it that name. Certainly the wild Tartar hordes that terrorized Eastern Europe in the ninth century didn't use it. Nor does it contain cream of tartar, a byproduct of winemaking. It came originally from French kitchens, where it was used not only on seafood, but also with grilled or broiled meats, usually encrusted with bread crumbs. In this country, we keep adding ingredients to the recipe. Making it spicy is the current trend.
Tartar Creek flows two miles down the mountains northeast of the wine country of Mendocino County in California. It begins at a spring at 2,800 feet, and rolls down a thousand feet before ending in Pepperwood Gulch Creek. You can drive right to the confluence if you have an ATV and don't mind climbing up a dead-end roast called Loser Lane. Or you can turn around and drive six miles to Willits, where you can have lunch at the Loose Caboose Cafe.
Annals of Menu Pricing
In 1964 on this date, John F. Kennedy replaced Benjamin Franklin on the half-dollar coin. You could have purchased a good plate of food for fifty cents then, but ten years later you couldn't. That's what I found out when I went through a bunch of my old menus of restaurants here in New Orleans. A fifty-cent plate of beans and rice was easy to find in 1964. By 1973, the lowest price I could find was ninety-five cents. Maybe this is why nobody uses half dollars anymore. When's the last time you saw one?
Deft Dining Rule #232
A great restaurant for fried seafood will not have tartar sauce on the table. And you will not need to ask for it.
Annals of Popular Cuisine
Robert Allison, the first person to buy an American-made automobile, did so on this date in 1898. His flivver was made by the Winton Motor Carriage Company. He immediately went out for a fish sandwich with tartar sauce, but he couldn't find a place with a drive-through.
Food in Traffic
A truck carrying margarine and flour caught fire in the Mont Blanc Tunnel through the Alps today in 1999. This was serious: thirty-nine people died. Good thing a milk tanker wasn't just ahead of the truck, or a mammoth biscuit would have blocked access.
On this day in 1932, singer Belle Baker did the first radio program ever from a moving train. That's something I always wanted to do. Andrew Mellon, founder of the Mellon banking dynasty, was born today in 1855. Comedian Fatty Arbuckle came out laughing today in 1887. Alan Sugar, a British computer manufacturer, clicked out a "1" today in 1947. Olive Schreiner, a South African writer, had Page One of her life today in 1855. Isabel Suckling, the youngest classical musician ever to sign a major recording contract, voiced her first note today in 1998.
Words to Eat By
"My first words were 'Seconds, please.'" — Louie Anderson, American comedian, born today in 1953.
Words to Drink By
"She's like somebody's mom who'd a few too many drinks at a cocktail party." — Nick Lowe, British rocker, born today in 1949. He was referring to Grace Slick.