My grandmother, who lived in Maryland, had a wire rack that hung from the back of her kitchen door and was filled with all sorts of ancient, bizarre foodstuffs: cans of jellied beef consommé; packages of sardines; and containers of spices, the labels of which had long since faded to illegibility.
One jar, however, always stood out against the sea of sun-bleached McCormick tins: the bright red, yellow, and blue canister of Old Bay Seasoning. I didn't have much use for the stuff as a child (I was seafood-phobic, and found it much too spicy), but recently, I decided to revisit the iconic spice blend.
My renewed interest in Old Bay was born out of my love of rubs for meat, poultry, and fish. Lately, I've been experimenting with Fire & Flavor's Collection (the French Mustard & Herb Blend is especially delicious), as well as a maple sugar rub I picked up at the Wood Homestead stand at my local farmers' market. But with all the fancy options available, I suddenly felt compelled to go back to the basics. Old Bay has been around—with the same exact formula, in the same exact tin—for almost 70 years. Wasn't it high time I gave it another try?
The Old Bay website has an extensive index of recipes for all the usual dishes—crab cakes, tuna melts, and shrimp dip—as well as few that were unexpected (Old Bay Martinis, anyone?). I decided to make a classic Shrimp Scampi, with a few alterations: I cut back a bit on the oil, and I used a small handful of minced, fresh flat-leaf parsley in place of the parsley flakes.
The recipe came together in minutes and was tremendously successful. The shrimp were so tender, flavorful, and spicy they didn't need any garnish except a squeeze of lemon. On a whim, I sliced a baking potato into rounds, tossed them with salt, pepper, and Old Bay, and broiled them. Served alongside a puddle of ketchup, they made superb oven fries.
One of the best things about spice blends and rubs is they make meal preparation quick and easy. And while I'm not sure if I'm ready to follow in my grandmother's footsteps, and forge an affection for gelatinous soups or brined fish, I'm certainly glad to have my own tin of Old Bay on the shelf of my little Brooklyn Kitchen.
- 1/4-1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 1/2-2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Do not brown.
Add shrimp and sprinkle evenly with Old Bay. Cook shrimp about 1-2 minutes on each side, until pink throughout. Stir in lemon juice and parsley.
Serve over pasta or rice, if desired.