Food for Thought (06/14/13)

Seafood nachos with crab, shrimp, scallops ‘sweet and succulent’

DEBORAH LEE WALKER

DEBORAH LEE WALKER
■ Contributing Writer

Each week, cars packed with vacationers head to Ocean City anticipating a fantastic time. OC’s Boardwalk, amusement parks, sparkling ocean and mouthwatering food are just a few of the festivities that bring hundreds of thousands of tourists to the island every year.

But if one were to ask locals and sightseers what is the most notable food in the resort, the blue crab would win hands down. The succulent, tender meat is absolutely scrumptious and is one of the most sought-after shellfish in the Mid-Atlantic region.

According to the article, “Blue Crab in the Chesapeake,” “the earliest fossil record of this genus dates back 23 million years ago to the Miocene Epoch, during the Tertiary Period. The genus Callinectes appeared before the great ice ages of the Pleistocene and Holocene, but millions of years after the disappearance of the last dinosaurs. When rising sea level began to flood the Susquehanna River valley about 10,000 years ago, giving birth to the Chesapeake Bay, the blue crab was perfectly adapted to the variety of estuarine habitats that resulted.”

But enough of history. Crabs are priced according to their size and. The large males bring the highest prices because they usually contain a larger quantity of meat. Males have blue claws and females have a bright orange. Think of the ladies as “painting their fingernails.”

Unlike female blue crabs, there is no easy way to distinguish the sexual maturity of the male. But if one looks closely, you will observe that the apron of the adolescent male is tightly sealed whereas the adult male is free to open. An immature female crab has an inverted apron, a mature female crab has a bell shaped apron that is not tightly sealed, and a pregnant female crab carry’s a sponge of eggs that is in the interior and exterior of the abdomen.

The Maryland Natural Resources released the 2013 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey in April. “Total abundance of blue crabs dropped 765 million to 300 million and the number of juvenile crabs dipped from 581 million to 111 million.”

Since the early 1990s, there has been a dramatic decrease in the crab population. The latest survey indicated that the number of mature female crabs increased and remain above the critical numbers to sustain the population, but the sudden drop in young crabs is alarming.

Overharvesting, weather, or other natural occurrences can affect the crab stock, but marine officials do not think this is the culprit. Studies confirm that there has been a considerable influx of red drum fish. Drum feed on adolescent crabs and this may be one possible reason for the decline.

An escalation in cannibalism among crabs themselves may be contributing to the mysterious disappearance of the record number of young crabs. Scientists believe that 20 percent of an adult blue crab’s diet can consist of juvenile crabs.

There is also the issue of diminished acreage of underwater grasses because of poor water quality and irregular conditions that might be affecting the decrease of crabs. Bay grass provides a safe habitat for young crabs by protecting them from predators.

But whether plentiful or scarce, blue crabs are not only a delicacy on the Eastern Shore but they are also an integral link in the Chesapeake Bay food web. We must take care of our natural resources and appreciate the blessings of Mother Nature.

Seafood nachos are sweet and succulent. Contrasting flavors and textures create a terrific dish. The amounts of seafood can be reduced to comply with one’s budget. Enjoy!

Ingredients

3 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 pounds assorted bay scallops, deveined shrimp and jumbo lump crabmeat
1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 bunch green onions, sliced thinly
3 large Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 orange bell pepper, seeded, cored and finely chopped
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
1 cup sour cream
1/2 to 2/3 cup sliced pickled jalapeno
2 1/2 cups grated pepper Jack cheese
1 cup grated sharp cheese
1 9 (-ounce) bag of blue tortilla chips
chopped parsley for garnish

 

1. Heat butter in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add seafood, bell pepper, garlic and spices and cook until shrimp become pink.

2. Place tortilla chips on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Top with seafood mixture, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos. Cover with cheese and broil until melted.

3. Slide mixture onto a serving dish and top with lettuce and sour cream. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

Secret Ingredient: Appreciation. The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.

— Oscar Wilde

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