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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Md. chef blasphemously bashes Old Bay

I have a profound respect for the McCormick Spice Co. As a Marylander, I relish in the fact that I personally own a 1963 McCormick placemat with historical trivia and tidbits of spicy know-how. A warm smile slights my face every time I run across the 1954 McCormick spice brochure that adorns my attic, safely tucked away in a box of special books.
But I must come clean. It pains me to write such blasphemous words, but, alas, I find myself in a predicament from which I see no easy way out. I am backed into a corner and the hounds of the spice gods are gnashing at my soul.
I can’t stand Old Bay.
There, I said it. I am one of three charter members in the ‘I Don’t Like Old Bay Club’ in our own America in Miniature. Does it hold its own in some dishes? Sure, I guess. But, I’d take JO spice any day. Or at least I would until recently, when a friend gave us a couple canisters of Williams-Sonoma Potlatch seasoning.
Imagine Old Bay without the punch of celery on the front end and then add a little heat and more of the warming spices, then you have the Potlatch. It is darned tasty stuff, and I can’t thank Monty enough for introducing us to this great blend of spices.
To clarify what I mean about the celery, allow me to clarify that I love celery. After learning to peel celery a number of years ago in California, it became one of the greatest cheap vegetables to me. But when you talk about the pungent nature of celery seed, then it becomes something else entirely.
And the spice blend in question smacks of overbearing celery in the nose, the front end in the first bite, and the back end in the last bite. That’s all I can taste. Again, I know that I’ll get hate mail for this, but I don’t care. I’m glad to get this off my chest. Mayhap I haven’t lost too many nights’ sleep over it, but as a Marylander I feel it to be my civic duty to be honest and forthright.
Our son, on the other hand, won’t touch the blend I now enjoy and adores Old Bay on anything and everything under the sun. In fact, I’m a tad surprised that he doesn’t put it on his Lucky Charms. A fanatic supporter and aficionado of Old Bay, he enjoys it on pizza, chicken, shrimp (of course), blue crabs, snow crabs, king crabs or any other savory dish that we may lay out before him.
Which brings me to the next admission in my new year’s resolution to air my shortcomings and dislikes: I could go the rest of my life without a blue crab feast. I mean, what is the point of them anyways? I don’t need a steaming pile of blue crabs to sit, drink beer and talk with friends, which seems to be the main reason for having a crab feast. Otherwise, you pick crabs for three hours, and then down some hot dogs and hamburgers because you’re starving at the end. Maybe I’m not from Maryland, after all. Who knows?
So as I begin the New Year with a desire to bare all, I realize that I may lose my status in some official Maryland club, but it is what it is. At least our great state has some of the best small breweries in the country in my eyes, such as Burley Oak. That’s pure Maryland entrepreneurship, and that is what makes us a great state. So if you ever want to meet to discuss my spicy shortcomings, at least we know a friendly bar to which we could belly up.

Shrimp Salad
Makes 4 sandwiches
1 lb. 16/20 shrimp
1 whole lemon
3 Tbsp. Potlatch seasoning
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. celery
Peel and devein the shrimp, placing the shells in cheesecloth and tying it off.
Place the shrimp, shells, lemon and Potlatch in a pan and cover with water halfway up the shrimp.
Bring the water to a boil and cover the pan.
Stir every two minutes, ensuring that the shells stay in the water to extract flavor.
When the shrimp are cooked through, remove from the heat and place pan in refrigerator, stirring every five minutes.
When shrimp are cold, remove from the liquid and lay out on a pan.
Place back in icebox to allow them to dry for 30 minutes. This helps to keep the salad from getting too wet from water on and in the shrimp.
Gently peel the celery on the outside to remove as much of the fibrous gunk as possible
Chop finely and add to a bowl.
Cut the shrimp in half only so that you have large chunks. There’s no point in using large shrimp if you’re going to chop it up into small pieces.
Add the mayonnaise and stir. If you need more spice, add some more of the blend and you’re done.
This sandwich is best served on Rye bread, a Baltimore staple, but if you don’t have it (or can’t stand it), any bread will do.
Eat and be ready for the Old Bay police to come pounding on your door.