Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Trip To The ‘Butcher Shop’ = Live Blue Crabs

“We live in the middle of nowhere…” is something that I always find myself telling family and friends back home whenever they ask about whereabouts we live amidst the outskirts of the Tampa Bay area. Yet, at the same time, it may be a bit of an over stretch because we live close enough that if we choose to venture out to different parts of the city it isn’t a major ordeal. Anyways, we first became curious about this “Butcher Shop” upon receiving a coupon flier in the mail. The prices seemed so good, almost too good to be true.

So we set out in the middle of the week one evening and the address led us down the Bruce B. Downs (#BBD). We didn’t know that the Bruce B. Downs changes so immensely…drastically so only 20 minutes down! First, we passed through Tampa palms, which is a beautiful neighborhood. It seems a little older and a golf course community. There are subdivisions, very tall palms, and palm lined entrances. The palms tower over tower higher than the lamp posts and even the power lines. Ten minutes away from Tampa palms, there is a change like almost night and day. University City aka Suitcase City is a rough little area. It was kind of crazy to google “University City USF” and find travel advisories, warnings, etc. It does have it’s fare share of sub-urban sprawl and looks a little run down. Just be aware of your surroundings, don’t bother folks and they won’t bother you, do what you gotta do and go.

We checked out the “Butcher Shop”, Meat Depot. It wasn’t a bad place it just wasn’t what I expected and not what I was used to. Customer service was great , the guys were really friendly. They have package deals and family plans in which they allow substitutions. There was also a large amount of international grocery products, seasonings, and ingredients. The smell is nauseating and will overcome you. It’s not a rotten smell but it’s just raw. My husband, Papa Smurf assured me that this was to be expected, I had never been to a butcher shop before. Anyways, papa Smurf was beyond elated to find a pleasant surprise that they sold live blue crabs! He was so excited, he’s a crab fanatic…a crab-a-holic! He even makes his own dipping sauce and we haven’t had any crabs since we left Maryland. Crab prices start at $15.99/ doz. I was shocked! Let me tell you, we have been to some restaurants in “suburbia” where we live that have prices that will make your eyes twitch or your face freeze in place with mouth gaping wide. Anyways, the crabs were indeed alive, fresh, and tasted great once we steamed them.

Back home in Maryland, blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning are staples! In Maryland, Old Bay is put on everything, there are Old bay French fries (of course with malt vinegar, and ketchup too), Old Bay rotisserie chicken, Old Bay fried chicken, even Old Bay bagged potato chips sold in stores. Steamed crabs are a major part of Summers in Maryland, they are the stars of #BBQs and of course their namesake crab feasts. There are a number of all you can eat crab houses back home as well. Crab cakes are a common treat, there’s also crab dip and cream of crab soup. Jumbo lump is the way to go when it comes to these crabby treats! And authenticity is key when it comes to a real Maryland style crab cake, which usu has an even balance of breading and jumbo lump crab meat. I will have to get in depth and share some of these Maryland blue crab delicacies in the near future. Today, I will share with you the an “easy peasy” steamed blue crab recipe and of course Papa Smurf’s Condiment Dump Dipping Sauce.

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1-2 Dozens of Live Blue Crabs
2 Tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning
2 Fresh bay leaves
1 1/2 Cups of Vinegar (we used apple cider vinegar)
1/2 Can of beer (just use your favorite)
2-3 Cups of Water (enough to cover the entire pot….making the liquid a total of 2-3 inches deep)
A large tall stock pot or steamer pot with a lid

I have to warn you that live crabs are feisty! I still have memories of my father with his flimsy tongs vs feisty crabs with their pinchers and claws; and one of the crabs who running for the stairs. This happened when my great grandmother Florine came to visit all the way from California. With that bit of nostalgia being shared, don’t even attempt to put the into a boiling stockpot unless you are either an experienced crab steamer or you understand that an injury is likely. The method is simple, you just pour all of your ingredients into the pot, sprinkle the crabs with old bay seasoning (to your taste). Secure the lid, boil and steam on high heat for at least 20 mins, until the crabs are orange red and no longer blue (and no longer moving of course). Remove from the stock pot,, spread out the newspaper, crack out the mallets, and enjoy! Or try with…

Papa Smurf’s Condiment Dump Dipping Sauce...

2 Cups of Mayonnaise
2 tsp of Old Bay seasoning
2 Capfuls of Vinegar
2 tblspns of Ketchup
1-2 tblspns of Mustard
Mix all ingredients well in a small bowl and serve chilled with steamed crabs.

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