I had just under a pound of peeled crab meat after my crab cakes (see previous post) were cooked. Now what? I rummaged through the fridge (too late to go out shopping) and found enough ingredients to make a delicious crab, corn, pancetta and vegetable soup with tomatoes. I have not made this soup in several years and forgot just how good it isâ€¦ if you have an abundance of crab or have significant leftovers after a crab meal, this is an excellent way to use the crab meat… and it isnâ€™t that corn-starchy, pale Chinese restaurant menu staple – crab and corn soup.
When I was in college, my sister and her family would occasionally drive down to Baltimore, Maryland to eat crabs (and perhaps visit the Baltimore Aquarium). On one such trip, we decided to drive along the Maryland shore and, I believe, basically got lost in what was increasingly marsh like country. No wonder there are so many blue crabs in this areaâ€¦itâ€™s like the Northern equivalent of serious mangrove areas. At any rate, I distinctly remember two things from that driveâ€¦ the first was the above ground cement graves in the graveyards or churchyards in the area (couldnâ€™t dig because it was so wet) and more importantly, a memorable stop at a â€œhole in the wallâ€ crab restaurant somewhere near Chincoteague or thereabouts. This restaurant had pens of crabs out back so that they could harvest the crabs as they were molting (shedding their shell) and when fried, resulted in the freshest and most delicious soft shell crabs you have ever eaten. Also at this restaurant was a memorable crab soupâ€¦this is my version.
An authentic Maryland crab soup probably has no animal meat in itâ€¦but my twist adds a touch of pancetta or bacon to pump up the flavor. Omit it if you like. To make, heat up a large enamel pan. Fry up some chopped pancetta (say 4-5 tablespoons worth) until the fat is rendered. Add perhaps two medium sized chopped carrots, one medium onion chopped, 2 stalks of medium sized celery chopped, and some fresh fennel chopped (if it happens to be hanging out in your vegetable drawer as mine was). Saute for a few minutes until the vegetables are slightly softened. Add 1 cup fresh corn kernels (didnâ€™t have this so I used drained whole kernel canned corn), Â½ cup frozen peas, some sliced green beans, and one medium potato chopped. Add about 8 cups of water or 4 cups low sodium chicken stock and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Add one can crushed tomatoes, about 1+ tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning (critical for authentic flavor), 3-4 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce, a pinch of red pepper flakes for zing, salt and pepper. Boil this for about 15 minutes. Add about 1 pound of peeled crab meat and continue boiling until done, about 30-40 more minutes. Serve hot. My pot made 8-10 good sized servings of soup. Absolutely delicious.