Maine may be known for its lobsters, the gulf coast for its shrimp, but Maryland was blessed with crabs. Situated around Chesapeake bay, Maryland is ranked the 42nd state in size with only 10,460 square miles of land. But when it comes to water, this tiny state has an amazing 3,100 miles of tidal shoreline.

The seafood industry is a large part of Maryland’s economy. According to the US Department of Agriculture, in 2009 Maryland harvested 40.3 million pounds of blue crab, which was actually the lowest amount in over a decade. Poor water conditions have led to a drastic decline in the number of blue crab. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants in the water reduce the amount of light needed to sustain the underwater grasses that support young crab life (Can you actually believe there are people who think we don’t need an EPA?).

With the price of crab meat driven high by lower supply, people have turned to using crab meat substitutes. Surimi (擂り身) which is Japanese for “ground meat”, is made by forming pulverized white fish such as pollock into various shapes, and then cooking. Surimi is a much-enjoyed food product in most Asian cultures and is available in many forms and shapes. It is often used to mimic the texture and color of the meat of lobster, crab and other shellfish. This “faux crab” has about the same calories per serving as the real deal but contains 0% fat and nitrates. The price for this product is also very attractive to consumers. Of course I am not suggesting that anything compares to the flavor and texture of the lump meat of a Maryland blue crab, but on my budget I am not opposed to using the other.

To prepare Hot Crab Dip with Green Chilies:

  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated with a microplane
  • 8 ounces of crab meat, (lump crab or Surimi)
  • 1 small can (4 oz) diced green chilies, mild or medium

Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Place in a ramekin or other small baking dish. Top with some additional grated parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with paprika for a bit of added color. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is  golden in color and bubbling. Serve hot with bread or crackers. This dip is also wonderful accompanied by crudité.

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