Ultimate crab cooking comes from Crisfield

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Oct 02, 2013 - 12:45 PM

Photo: The grand-prize dish, My Everything Crab Cakes. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

The grand-prize dish, My Everything Crab Cakes. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Photo: The first-place winner in the appetizer division, which also took the best presentation award: Frankie’s Crab Cluster Bombs.

The first-place winner in the appetizer division, which also took the best presentation award: Frankie’s Crab Cluster Bombs.

Cooking with crabs just could not get any better than it was at the 49th Crab Cooking Contest, a part of the 66th Annual Hard Crab Derby held in Crisfield, Md., last month.

This writer has had the privilege of serving as one of the judges for the 28th year, an honor that came with the luxury of tasting each entry. This year’s event brought out 20 aspiring cooks who believed they had the very best method of preparing crabs in either one of the four categories: Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Main Dishes, and Crab Cakes.

In the past there have been several family members competing (not in the same category), such as mother, daughter, brother, sister and once an entire family mother, daughter and son. This year a sister and brother entered. It was sister Helen Tomko who won first place in the crab cake division and the grand prize award with her My Everything Crab Cakes. Her brother, Eddie Tomko, placed second in the Main Dish category with his Maryland Blue Crab Ratatouille Casserole.

This city of Crisfield became known as the "Seafood Capital of the World," once the railroad was established in the early 1800s. It still depends to a great extent on the productivity of the waters of Tangier Sound. Seafood houses still process seafood in much the same manner they have for more than 150 years. Hard crabs are steamed and are still handpicked by seafood workers. It’s often described as "the town the oyster built," but for certain the crab has played a major role. For 66 years Crisfield’s people have banded together to show the world just how important the blue crab is.

The accompanying recipes tell the story and prove just how important this crustacean is to Somerset County.