Old Bay spice makes this Maryland specialty a Delaware favorite
From the June 2020 issue
Jimmy O’Conor’s crab cakes put Woody’s Dewey Beach Bar & Grill on the map — and no wonder. The Baltimore-area native spent 25 years perfecting his recipe before opening the restaurant in 2009. But the bronzed beauties are not the only iconic dish at the low-key eatery.
“Marylanders and locals have told me that my Maryland crab soup is the best they’ve ever had,” say O’Conor, whose takeout business picked up during the pandemic. “There are people from Maryland who will drive to Woody’s just to pick up a quart or two to take home.”
O’Conor, who was 15 when he became a busboy, developed both recipes after years working in everything from steakhouse chains to five-star restaurants. Gradually, he amassed a collection of recipes, which he tweaked to make his own.
Armed with a cache of Maryland favorites, he left the mortgage and title business that had become his livelihood to open a restaurant at the beach. He planned to showcase pit beef and snow cones. Fans are glad he decided to make crab the star instead.
For O’Conor, Woody’s is more than a business. It’s a lifestyle. “I love what I do. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else at this point in my life,” he says. The satisfaction he feels when happy customers finish a meal is only matched when they return the next night — and many do.
No doubt, the Maryland crab soup is one reason why. Not surprisingly, it includes Old Bay Seasoning. “I like its different, wide-reaching uses,” he says of Maryland’s signature spice. But if you’re not a fan, it’s fine to use less than listed — or none at all.
MARYLAND CRAB SOUP
(Serves 6-8; reduce ingredients by half for a smaller group)
1 gallon of water
3 tablespoons of crab base (a paste made from Mid-Atlantic crabmeat available online or in select stores)
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1½ tablespoons of onion powder
½ cup of Old Bay seasoning
2 pounds of a frozen vegetable medley (carrots, lima beans, peas, corn and green beans)
2 pounds of canned diced tomatoes in juice
2 pounds of crushed tomatoes
2 pounds of crabmeat (Woody’s uses a mix of claw and lump)
Chopped parsley for garnish
STEP 1 Combine the first five ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a rapid boil, making sure the seasonings dissolve into the soup base.
STEP 2 Add the frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes. Turn the heat down low. Stir occasionally.
STEP 3 Once your soup is simmering, taste the broth. Add more seasonings if needed.
STEP 4 If you’re happy with the seasonings, add the crabmeat, breaking it up gently as you take it out of the container. Save a few lumps for the garnish.
STEP 5 To serve, sprinkle each bowl with parsley and add the crabmeat lumps.