Crab Chowder Recipe and Family Memories

Dungeness crabWe scored some fresh-caught, fresh boiled Dungeness crab from our friends Dorene and Steve W., so I made Mexican corn and crab chowder; Edmund made some tortillas to dip in.  Cleaning the meat from the crab, I was thinking about family camping feasts when I was a kid. Every summer our family went camping in the Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia) and we ate fresh fish or seafood every day: hake, cod, lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, crab…

Dad’s favourite was lobster, mom’s crab, so we’d set up a big pot of boiling water on the Coleman stove and dad would boil the critters; mom or the kids would make a salad, prepare garlic butter to dip in, and my parents would open a bottle of white wine. When we got old enough, us kids would get a bit of wine too.

We learned to cook and clean seafood thoroughly, no waste. One of dad’s favourite things to do was to help camp neighbours learn to eat seafood, because not everyone knows how to prepare it but they be watching us pig out and look envious.  And if you botch your first experience, you may never want to try again! Dad was so pleased when he felt he’d given someone a chance to enjoy the good things in life.

Those summer feasts were one of the symbols of family and love for me. Dad cracking the shells for mom, that was love. The two of them clinking glasses, that was love. Their choice to feed the good, expensive stuff to their kids and teach us about the good things in life, instead of feeding us hot dogs and running away for tête à tête dinners, that was love. The adults and older kids trading their coveted lobster or crab claws for less savoury bits to the youngest kids to encourage them to learn to love the stuff, that was love. Eating and talking and laughing together at the picnic table as sunset turned to dusk and night birds started calling, that was love.

Anyhow, enough maudlin thoughts; enjoy this Mexican-style crab and corn chowder with friends and family.

Mexican Crab and Corn Chowder

Mexican crab and corn chowderIngredients

  • 1 pound red tomatoes (or two cans)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 or 3 jalapeño pepper, seeded OR (as I did today) one small jalapeño and one small Serrano or Thai pepper, seeded; chipotle are also very nice
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. (1 mL) cumin
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) masa flour (corn tortilla flour) or corn meal
  • 3 cups (750mL) chicken broth, preferably home-made
  • fish broth, crab shell broth, or clam juice
  • 2 cooked Dungeness crabs, cleaned and cracked
  • kernels from 2 ears corn OR one 10-oz. package frozen corn kernels
  • Salt
  • 2 limes, cut in small wedges


1. In a 5- to 6-quart pot (cast iron is excellent for this), sauté the onions, garlic, and peppers in the oil until softened and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Sprinkle the cumin and add the tomatoes.  Cook for a few more minutes. You can use an immersion blender to turn this into a smoother mixture.

3. Mix masa flour and broth. Stir into pot along with tomatoes and a cup of fish broth. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring; occasionally; cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

4. Add corn and crab pieces to pot. Cover and simmer until crab is hot, 5 minutes (if using cooked corn) to 10 minutes (if corn is raw). Adjust thickness; add more masa or corn starch if too thin, first mixing it in with a little broth or water to eliminate lumps; add more fish broth if too thick. Adjust seasoning.

5. Ladle soup into bowls. Serve with grated cheese (such as queso fresco, cheddar or Monterey jack), warm tortillas for dipping, chopped cilantro, and juice squeezed from the lime wedges.