There’s nothing like a 250-year old recipe to be really…disappointing. Our ideas about great food change with time. We have so many more food choices today, ingredient options that the founding fathers and mothers wouldn’t have had, and such a varied range of cuisines that have altered and opened the American palate that finding a historic recipe and making it work for modern tastes requires some adaptation. This recipe for Martha Washington’s crab soup would have been considered an elegant and luxurious offering for special guests. It’s a classic mid-Atlantic first course, the kind that you can still find on the menu in stuffy men’s clubs in Washington – rich, safe, and fishy.
For the way we eat now, I’ve (respectfully – since today is George Washington’s birthday) shaken things up with lemon juice, cayenne, and dill. The recipe called for sherry, and while I’m all about adding a dash of spirits when called for, it gave the soup a sweetness that was cloying. Crabmeat has a strong flavor, and the lemon juice keeps it from becoming overwhelming while the cayenne and dill create bright bursts of flavor that make this soup hearty, zingy, and delicious. I think Martha would approve.
Adapted from her original recipe
Prep time: 45 minutes
- 8 ounces crab meat, picked and cleaned
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped
- 1 lemon rind, grated
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup of dill, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup cream
- 4 cups whole milk
- Combine hard-boiled eggs, flour, butter, grated lemon, and salt and pepper in a bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a boil and slowly pour in the egg mixture.
- Add crabmeat and turn heat to low, cooking gently for five minutes.
- Add the cream and remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice, chopped dill, and cayenne. Garnish with some of the crumbled egg yolk and dill and serve.