Cookin’ Crabs with Johnny Mo

johnny mo
Johnny Mo, the musical chef of Mallards in Onancock, grew up on Chesapeake Bay blue crabs.

Written by Johnny Mo.

The Chesapeake Bay, just the sound of those three words transports me to a place of peace, education, and memories.  In my life, I have learned many things on and around the bay.  Hot summer weekends were spent on my grandparent’s boat, swimming, fishing, and enjoying everything the warm, green-hued brackish water had to offer.

Every August my brothers and I would stare out the window in amazement as we drove over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge because that meant we were on our way to the beautiful Eastern Shore. This was our annual family summer vacation.  Connecting with nature at such a young age was an incredible experience. I truly feel there’s no better way to do that than by visiting the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  Vacation promised more fun in the sun, wildlife, first kisses, and even my favorite part, a crab feast.

Sometimes we would catch our own crabs with a chicken neck and some string in Queens Sound or on a back creek on Chincoteague.  Out of all the bounties the Chesapeake Bay has to offer, the blue crab is by far my favorite.  The delicate and sweet flavor of crab needs nothing at all to be scrumptious, but what doesn’t taste better with a bit of melted butter?  And of course, no self-respecting crab would be so perfectly salty and spicy without a generous dredge of that famous Chesapeake Bay seasoning.

As far as eating crabs go, here is my go-to; 1. A covered deck with a pitcher of ice-cold beer. 2. Close family and friends. 3. Some good tunes. 4. A pool nearby to cool off in. 5. And most importantly, a big ol’ bushel of jimmies. (That’s shore talk for big, fat, male crabs.)

Steaming crabs is just one way to enjoy this delicious bounty of the bay.  I have included a few of my signature recipes from my restaurant, Mallards at the Wharf in Onancock, Va. We are a seafood-focused, regional American themed, full-service waterfront restaurant. We are located at the head of Onancock Creek. I hope you enjoy these recipes with family and friends.

crab avacado

Crab Stuffed Avocadoserves 2-4

2 ripe avocados
1 pound lump crab meat
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp. chopped cilantro plus more for garnish
½ tsp granulated garlic
Mixed greens for garnish

In a bowl, mix the mayo, garlic, pepper, lemon juice and zest together.  GENTLY fold in the crab and place it in the refrigerator.  Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Use a spoon to remove the pulp in one piece and place both halves on a bed of mixed greens.  Salt the avocados and then spoon the crab mixture over the halves. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

crab salsa

Crab & Corn Salsaserves 2-4

1 cup cooked sweet corn cut from the cob
1 pound of lump crab meat
1 cup roma tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
½ cup diced sweet onion
Juice and zest of one lime
Pickled jalapeno according to your spice preference
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp agave nectar

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients except the crab. Next, gently fold in the crab and refrigerate for 30 minutes so everybody in the salsa gets to know each other.  Serve with tortilla chips or in mini phyllo cups.

crab cakes

Mallards Crab Cakesserves 2-4

1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked twice for shells
1 Tbsp OLD BAY seasoning
2 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
1 egg
¼ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup panko bread crumbs

In a large bowl, mix the egg, old bay, parsley, and mayo together with a whisk until smooth.  GENTLY place the crab and panko in the bowl.  GENTLY fold the mixture together with your hands being sure not to break up those beautiful, ex$pen$ive lumps of crab.  Let the mix rest refrigerated for 15 minutes for the panko to bloom and soak up some of the moisture.  Portion into 4 equal cakes and refrigerate until service.  You can cook these several ways.  My personal favorite, deep fry at 350 degrees for 4 minutes. Another way is to sauté in a shallow pan on medium-high with olive oil and a pat of butter, about 4 minutes per side. Lastly, you can broil them until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes depending on your broiler.

I hope these recipes inspire you to enjoy one of the many treasures of the Chesapeake Bay, the Blue Crab. The avocados and the crab cakes are on our 2020 summer menu at Mallards so if you don’t feel like cooking come on in, we’ll do the cooking and the dishes. You can call for reservations at (757)787-8558.

Thank you,

Johnny Mo

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Mallards at the Wharf
2 Market Street
Onancock, Virginia

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Did you make any of Johnny Mo’s mouthwatering crab recipes? Leave a picture in the comments below and tell us which one is your favorite.

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