Letter From Point Lookout Hotel: fried hard crabs

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The other day one of my readers (maybe the only reader who knows?) asked if I would reprint the recipe for fried hard shell crabs. Yes there is such a thing! We used to serve them at the Point Lookout Hotel “Crab House and Snack Bar” which also housed the bathhouses for the Olympic sized swimming pool. They tore down the old Hotel – I don’t know the fate of the swimming pool or the crab house – but the recipes live on. I am not sure I ever wrote the recipe before or not but if I did here it is again and if I didn’t hear it is for the first time!


The list of ingredients is as follows:

2 ½ cups cornmeal griddle cake mixture

(Recipe for above as follows)

½ lb. (or more) crab cake mix

(Recipe follows)

2 or 3 large heavy steamed hard crabs (per person)

Old Bay seasoning (to taste)

Oil for deep frying

The ingredients for the griddle cakes are:

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour (NOT self-rising)
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tbs. baking powder
2 eggs (WELL BEATEN)
2 cups milk (scant)

 Mix the first four ingredients. Beat eggs until they are thick (can take five to ten minutes). The more the eggs are beaten the lighter the cakes will be! Mix the milk with the eggs. Add the dry ingredients and stir to wet. Let stand for a few minutes before dropping by the spoonful on a hot greased (lightly) skillet or grill. Turn when cake starts to firm on the edges. Remove when golden brown.

Save the uncooked mix so you can coat the hard crabs. Don’t say I didn’t warn you that if you have them for breakfast you will have to make more for the crabs. The above will serve four normal appetites (with sausage, bacon or ham) for breakfast. If (and I hope you will) you are going to try fried hard crabs put a little old bay seasoning in the cornmeal griddle cake mix (to taste) But not the ones you cook for breakfast.

Crab cake ingredients (or use your recipe):

1 lb. crab meat 1 tsp. salt

2 eggs chopped onions

1/3 to ½ cup crumbs pepper

1 1/3 tbsp. mustard dash Tabasco

1 tbsp. mayonnaise Worcestershire sauce

Mix together. Makes 6 to 8 cakes. Can be fried or broiled in cakes or used in the fried hard crab recipe.

Fried Hard Crabs:

Remove the back, legs, claws (crack the meat – they will not be used in this) lungs (devil fingers) and apron. For those who understand that the yellow and or brown stuff is the “fat” for the crab, mix it with the crab cake mixture. For those that think it is something else not repeatable here- you are WRONG and are missing a taste treat. Whichever way, pack the crab cake mixture in the cavity between the two crab halves. Coat the stuffed crab with the cornmeal griddle cake mixture. Drop in deep fat and fry until a medium-dark golden brown. You will be startled to find that you can now eat the “whole thing”. The shells that frustrate some people will now “disappear”! Enjoy!

If you don’t want to go to any trouble-go to Obrekie’s of Baltimore- they still serve them! I was talking to Bob Strain’s lovely wife just the other day and she said she thought I was the first person to feed Bob a soft crab sandwich. Bob, old boy, I don’t know who it was that fixed that crab for you BUT it wasn’t me! Having lived in Southern Maryland since 1921 and crabbed professionally as early as 1935 I know how to clean and cook a soft crab. For those that do not know here is THE way! Start with ONLY a live soft crab (and the softer the better) take a SHARP knife and cut a small semi-circle just behind the eyes. This not only removes the aforesaid eyes but also puts the crab out of its misery – so to speak. Now lift (but do not remove) one corner of the back shell and with the knife remove the devil fingers (lungs) with the sharp point of the knife puncture the claws (this will reduce splattering while cooking). Now you may or may not dust with seasoned flour and sauté in butter or deep fry. Normally served on a roll with tartar sauce on the side. Fantastic!

Those of you from States not having access to crab bearing waters may never have eaten one. Screw up your courage and try one. If the look bothers you. CLOSE YOUR EYES. I don’t think you will regret it like one chap I saw. My wife, Jean, and I were having lunch in the Roost (that ought to be good for a free lunch) when we heard three gentlemen order lunch while they were engrossed in an important (to them) conversation. Two ordered soft crab sandwiches and the third either did not hear or did not care because he mumbled “the same”. When their order came the three were still deeply engrossed in their conversation as none paid any attention to the plates in front of them. (I know you are beginning to think I am a nosy so and so but the tables ARE a little close –AND I am nosy!) One of the three (he was the first to order) started to ear. Then the second – with the third continuing to talk. When he finally stopped he took his first look at his lunch. Now for those who have never seen a soft crab served on a roll let me try to describe what he saw and what he THOUGHT he saw. If the crab is of any size (and the Roost DOES serve nice ones) the crab will extend past and out from under the top of the roll. Its legs will curl under the bottom of the toll as if the crab were holding on for dear life! In other words, he “saw” a gigantic spider partially covered by the top of the roll sitting on his plate! He paled! He looked up at his companions who were busy devouring their “Spider”. He quickly averted his eyes and looked sort of nervously around the room. Having satisfied himself that nobody was watching (I was off to the one side and slightly behind) he gave what only could be described as a look of utter loathing as he slowly pushed his plate to the center of the table where it remained until it was removed upon departure. I have often wondered if he ever touched a crab.

Speaking of people being uneducated concerning crabs I recall one day I was with an old fishing buddy, Jim Kapp by name. Now Jim is my kind of humor – just a tad weird and a little cruel. (But then that is part of humor – isn’t it?) This day we were standing on the dock of Oakwood Lodge near Piney Point when two fellows rowed up. They were stripped to the waist but god knows they shouldn’t have been. It was one of those hot still days of July and both were turning a nice pink to glowing red! One hailed us with “either you fellows know anything about crabs?” “Yep”, said Jim. “How come these crabs are green?” we were asked. Jim, in a knowledgeable voice, asked, “What side of Piney Point did you catch them on?” Looking in the boat we could see they had about three-quarters of a bushel of hard crabs that they had caught just polling along the flats. “This side”, they replied. “WELL – NO WONDER!” my friend pointed to” the RIPE ONES ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POINT!” Before I could stop them they dumped their catch overboard, hollered “thanks” as they were rowing away on their journey to the other side of the point. I do remember saying, “let’s get the Hell out of here before they wake up and come back!!!” I thank whoever that I never saw them again and if they read this I hope they think it was funny too and are not the type that wants revenge.

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