In the summertime here on the Eastern Shore, it’s rare to go a week without enjoying blue crabs in some way, shape, or form. Crab cakes, crab soup, or crab dip are all shining examples. But, nothing beats a good old-fashioned crab feast in my book! A big tray of freshly steamed crabs, some corn-on-the-cob, and plenty of ice cold beer. It’s just not summer without it!

Now, I know that many of you folks don’t have access to live blue crabs. But, many folks who do buy them already steamed and seasoned. And, that’s just no good! You don’t know how long ago they were cooked, and you usually end up paying more money to have them do it for you.

The steaming instructions listed below apply to any amount of live crabs – whether it be 1 dozen, or one bushel. Quantity does not matter. Bear in mind if you are steaming a whole bushel, you’ll need a very large cooking device. We have an old keg that we’ve converted to a steam-pot, and it’s great! I also recommend cooking outside if possible. A turkey frying rig is wonderful for this purpose. A side burner on a grill can usually do the job as well. I find that when I do steam them inside, it creates a funk smell in the house that lingers for a day or so. Kind of like when you fry something!

Line a table with multiple layers of newspaper, and dump the crabs right into the center of the table. Have wooden mallets and picking knives at the ready. We like to serve melted butter, and cider vinegar that’s been seasoned with plenty of Old Bay.

Have you ever had homemade pimento cheese? If not, you haven’t lived. It’s so delicious, but simple and easy. I always have the ingredients for this quick appetizer on hand – it’s a great recipe that can be thrown together quickly for unexpected guests. Which, when you have a kegerator full of homebrew and a pool, happens fairly often in the summertime.

It’s also great in grilled cheese sandwiches, baked as a hot dip, or stuffed inside of a burger before grilling. Be careful though, there is a condition that I’ve come to call “Pimento Cheese-itis” that comes from eating close to a whole batch by yourself. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, ya’ll – and don’t let it happen to you! Keeps in the fridge for a few days, if it makes it that long.

My all time favorite appetizer, hands down. When crab dip is good, it can be soooo good. But, when it’s bad …yowza. I’m fortunate enough to live in a place where a bushel of the bay’s best crabs are just a 30 minute drive on the backroads – to Crisfield, Maryland. You buy them directly off of the boat, for insanely cheap price (well, most of the year anyways. They mark them up Memorial Day and July 4th). Jon has converted a beer keg into a cooking vessel – so we can cook a whole bushel at a time. Combine that with a kegerator in the garage and it makes for one awesome crab feast!

If there are any leftover soldiers, I’ll usually pick them to make a batch of crab dip up the following night. It’s so rich and creamy, it really makes a meal. This recipe was given to me by a very dear friend of the family, who shall go unnamed to maintain her anonymity.  But, I love her forever for sharing it with me. It’s just the right balance of everything, really allowing the crab to shine.

One word of caution though, do not to skimp on crab meat. The plastic tubs are usually okay, but that canned stuff is just whack. No one wants crab meat all the way from Vietnam. Enjoy this one if you can, it’s definitely one of my favorites!

Have you ever had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful state of California? We went a couple years ago to see my mother-in-law in Ventura, and had the time of our lives! Everything that you’ve heard about it in books, movies, and television – is completely true. Gorgeous weather, sweeping vistas, sprouts galore, and rubbing elbows with movie stars…

Okay, maybe it was more like standing in line behind them at Magic Mountain, but whatever. For the record, Breckin Meyer is just as cute in person. We had a great time visiting the LA Farmer’s Market and Grand Central Market (very ethnic. Lamb head, anyone?), Pink’s Hot Dogs and all the other cheesy Hollywood stuff, the pier at Santa Monica, and of course no California trip would be complete without a trip to In-N-Out.

They are a small burger establishment, that has a bit of a cult following. And, for good reason. Their menu is limited; burgers, hand-cut fries, and shakes. If you’re looking for a chicken sandwich, salad or a Happy Meal, you won’t find it there. Nothing is frozen – everything is prepared fresh to order. They also have a “secret” menu, with things that are not found on the ordinary menu. One of which, and probably the most popular, is the “Animal Style”. A homemade special sauce similar to Thousand Island, dill pickle slices, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mustard – which is seared directly onto the burger patty on the grill, and the pièce de résistance, plenty of grilled onions. “Double double” refers to two beef patties, instead of one. In the past few years, they’ve branched out to a couple neighboring states – but nowhere near here! I read their rule of thumb is it has to be within a day’s drive of corporate headquarters?

At any rate, I was in love – ate as many as we could before we had to return to the East coast. We came home, and I turned up pregnant a month or so later. Biggest craving of that pregnancy? You guessed it! Thankfully, the good people at Serious Eats had done a whole writeup about it. I bookmarked it, but never got around to making it. Last week, Maya at Alaska From Scratch posted them and it jogged my memory. I rearranged the menu plan for the week to make room for these burgers, and am so thankful that I did. They were spot on!  Going down in the recipe books for sure. While I can’t wait to get back to California for everything else under the sun, at least I’m not wanting for In-N-Out anymore!