In Praise of Old Bay

Prime care package fodder from the ‘rents. Should’ve picked some up when I was home, but alas, I didn’t think of it til we were at the airport and strangely enough, I couldn’t find it! Tsk, tsk, BWI.

2008_07_21-oldbay.jpgGrowing up in a city that wasn’t a hub for fresh seafood, we didn’t fall in love with Old Bay until after college. And even then, our first (and still favorite) use for it was grilled chicken.

But in the summer, it’s one of the spices we reach for the most. It’s tangy, hot, distinctive, and oh how we love the retro packaging. It just looks like it came straight from the hand of a salty old fisherman. Click below for what, exactly, is in that can — plus our tip for using it on chicken…

Old Bay got its start in the Chesapeake Bay and was initially made to use on crabs. That identity stuck. It’s known first and foremost as a seasoning for seafood. Much like shrimp boil (many people use it as one), it contains celery salt, allspice, mustard, bay leaves, cloves, ginger, cardamom, and paprika, among many other spices.

It’s quite potent, with a little lingering sweetness, so it can jazz up fish or shrimp that might otherwise have a very mild taste. But we love it on chicken. A friend gave us a recipe for “Old Bay Chicken” several years ago that we’ve made more times than we can count.

It basically involves combining equal parts melted butter and lemon juice, then pouring in enough Old Bay to make the liquid a nice Burnt Sienna color, if you remember your Crayola shades. Really dark, ruddy orange. Marinate chicken breasts (which will make the butter cool and solidify, most likely) for 30 minutes or so, and then throw them on the grill, basting them with the butter mixture.

The butter keeps the meat extremely moist, and the Old Bay and lemon give it a nice color and kick.

What are your favorite uses for Old Bay?

Related: Good Product: Tabasco Brand Pepper Sauce

(Image: Old Bay)

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