Old Bay Seasoning is a mixture of herbs and spices which can be used in cooking for an endless amount of purposes. For instance, did you know it is one of the main ingredients in crab cakes?
Of course you did. Everybody knows that. I know it, and I’ve never made crab cakes in my life. There are of course a lot more creative uses, but first, some history.
Old Bay was created in the Chesapeake Bay area of the mid-Atlantic United States in 1939 by Gustav Brunn, a German national who fled to America to avoid the Nazis. Brunn mixed mustard, paprika, celery salt, bay leaf, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, mace, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger to craft the signature flavor, which he sold in the same distinctively-colored yellow tins in which it can still be found today.
Over 75 years later, Old Bay is synonymous with seafood — especially in and around Maryland and New England — and its use has been expanded to everything from chicken to pizza to Bloody Marys. True devotees basically utilize Old Bay as a substitute for salt and pepper, which contributed to the 77 million ounces of the seasoning sold last year alone. Here are five ways (with recipes!) that you can introduce it into Maryland-style homemade meals.
Beaten biscuits (called “sea biscuits” in New England) are hardtack-like rolls that are literally and severely beaten with a hard object or against a hard surface and pricked with a fork prior to baking. Popular in the South, a little bit of Old Bay can be added to a recipe like this (substitute ¼ or ½ teaspoon for the same portion of salt) to give the biscuits an extra Maryland twist.
Forget New England or Manhattan’s versions of chowder with only clam, the Maryland version also uses shrimp and crab along with onion, garlic, celery, olive oil, flour, chicken broth, potatoes, heavy cream, and Old Bay. To prepare, simply sauté the onion, garlic, and oil before slowly stirring in the other ingredients, with the seafood and cream added last. For the exact instructions, see the recipe here.
You can double your Old Bay fun with this one. Chicken Chesapeake is essentially a baked chicken breast (seasoned with Old Bay, of course) stuffed with crab imperial. The latter ingredient, for those unaware, is crab and a white sauce made with mayo or cream cheese, and usually lemon juice and Old Bay, with other ingredients added as desired. Check out a simple but delightful version here.
Maryland-Style Pit Beef
Although numerous states feature barbecue as local cuisine, only Maryland can lay claim to pit beef. Typically made with top roast, the meat is slow-cooked directly over charcoal and sliced deli-style, and almost always placed in a roll or bun. It is popular to see pit beef served at “Bull Roasts,” just like it is also popular to see the meat seasoned with Old Bay — like in this recipe.
Old Bay Ice Cream Sandwich
If you love Old Bay, crab cakes, and ice cream, but never thought of mixing them together… you’re probably a pretty sane person. But, believe it or not, it works. Basically, a few teaspoons of Old Bay Seasoning (or even better: Old Bay Rub, which contains brown sugar) are added to milk, sugar, and heavy cream to make the ice cream. Once properly frozen, the creation can be stuck between two crab cakes (made with their own helping of Old Bay), making sure the “bread” isn’t so hot it’ll instantly melt the ice cream. The full instructions can be found here.