This year's Super Bowl pits Baltimore's Ravens against San Francisco's 49ers, which means two of the country's most prolific sources of crab are set to clash in New Orleans, which is one of the world's best seafood towns.
It's a battle of the bays on the bayou.
We can't control who will win, but we can control what we eat while we watch. I always like to draw inspiration from the cities represented.
Baltimore and San Francisco share a love affair with crab, but that's where the culinary common ground halts.
San Francisco boasts one of the country's most diverse and enlightened cultures and a history of producing beautiful Dungeness crab. Baltimore is a blue-collar town with a blue-collar history, in the kingdom of blue crab.
The teams share equally contrasting histories. The 49ers are among the National Football League's most-celebrated franchises with five Super Bowl titles and a list of Hall of Famers such as Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young and head coach Bill Walsh. The Ravens didn't exist until 1996 when the Browns were whisked away from Cleveland by owner Art Modell and named after a famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe, who is buried in Baltimore. The Ravens did win a Super Bowl in 2000.
If you're planning a watch party for this Sunday's fixture, do it with a crab theme. Set up a Baltimore table and a San Francisco table, with dishes representing both cities — but make sure crab is the centerpiece of each. And since the host city for the game is New Orleans, feel free to interject some Cajun and/or Creole flavors.
One striking similarity between the combatants is between the coaches, who are both named Harbaugh. That's right, the teams are coached by brothers: San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore's John Harbaugh. Their folks live in Wisconsin, so you might add a little cheese to the table for their excellence in parenting.
On the San Francisco side, I recommend Crab Louie sandwiches; on the Baltimore side classic Maryland crabcakes.
Any crab will do for the Louie, but Dungeness is preferred as it is the crab native to San Francisco. For Maryland crabcakes, Chesapeake Bay blue crab is preferred. But if you can't find it, only true Marylanders will be able to tell — and they'll all be too nervous to notice.
A typical Crab Louie salad consists of crabmeat, hard-cooked eggs, tomato, asparagus, and plenty of lettuce. A typical Maryland crabcake is made up of crab, crumbled crackers and Old Bay seasoning.
For the crabcake recipe, I turned to Oklahoma chef emeritus John Bennett, who recoils at the mention of any crabcake not made by him.
The Crab Louie is pretty straightforward, but I thought for the Super Bowl, if you really want to hit your Bay Area marks, turn it into a sandwich on sourdough bread and serve it with Green Goddess dressing.
But do NOT buy bottled Green Goddess. If you don't want to make dressing from scratch, go with a good version of Thousand Island instead.
Before ranch dressing vanquished all salad dressing foes, Green Goddess was among the country's most revered dressings. By the 1970s it had become a mint green nightmare in a longneck bottle.
As I mentioned before, the game is being played in New Orleans, which is no stranger to crab. Nor is it a stranger to sandwiches. Nor is it a stranger to good libations. A good pot of red beans and rice livens up any buffet table. But since Mardi Gras is around the corner, we'll be featuring an authentic recipe for that next week.
Meantime, enjoy the game, the commercials and the food. I usually like to pick a winner, but this one really looks too close to call. The 49ers have the edge in talent, but the Ravens seem to have been sprinkled with more pixie dust.
So, let's go with this scenario: Ravens 26, 49ers 24 with a few seconds to play and struggling place-kicker David Akers lined up for the game-winning kick. Will Akers nick some of that pixie dust and sledgehammer a forgettable season by making the winning kick or will Jim Harbaugh kick himself for not signing someone else to toe the line?
Tune in Sunday.
Crabcakes for the Ravenous
1 pound crabmeat, preferably blue crab
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise, heaping
1 teaspoon prepared mustard, heaping
1/4 cup crackers (or breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons olive oil
• Place crabmeat into a large mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, beat eggs, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, seafood seasoning, dehydrated parsley flakes, dry mustard, mayonnaise and prepared mustard.
• Add cracker crumbs to the mixture. Fold dressing into crabmeat, being careful not to break up the crabmeat. Shape into slightly flattened patties and chill. Either saute the cakes in 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil on both sides until they are golden brown, or broil until golden brown on each side.
Crab Louie with Green Goddess Dressing
For the Salad
1 pound fresh-cooked crab meat, preferably Dungeness
4 tomatoes, diced
4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and crumbled
• Combine all ingredients crab and mix with Green Goddess so the salad is evenly coated. Spoon onto sliced sourdough bread.
2 cups mayonnaise, light will do
1 cup sour cream, light will do
1/2 cup tarragon vinegar
1/2 cup fresh chives, roughly chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
1 green onion, chopped roughly
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
• In a blender, combine all ingredients and pulse until smooth.