Over the summer, Alex came home from a weekend in Maryland with a container of Old Bay-flavored peanuts. As we devoured them, fingers covered with spices, I thought: I must recreate these.
Old Bay Seasoning is a 70-year-old Maryland specialty most often sprinkled on blue crabs and crab cakes. The mixture contains 18 herbs and spices supposedly designed to suit seafood so well that 1940s-era Marylanders would eat the free crabs that bars offered, and, due to the spice mix’s saltiness, order more drinks. The most prominent flavors are celery salt (vegetal, salty), paprika (sweet, earthy), mustard (pungent, hot), and red pepper (spicy). I also taste a citrus-y zestiness that probably cuts through the fishiness of a crab and also does great things for the richness of peanuts, the quintessential bar snack when there are no free crabs around.
Procrastinator that I am, it took me months to actually pour some spices into a bowl, add peanuts, and bake. But unlike most procrastination, this one had an advantage: these peanuts make a welcome addition to holiday appetizer tables, and they have serious gift potential, especially for Maryland ex-pats and those whose tastes run towards the flavor combination in a Bloody Mary.
Old Bay Peanuts
Makes 1 cup, easily doubled
Adapted from Coconut & Lime
1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, combine the peanuts, salt, Old Bay, cayenne, sugar, and olive oil. Toss to distribute the spices and coat all the peanuts with them. Pour the nuts onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out into one layer. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once. Cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes so the spices stick. Scrape into a bowl to serve, or store in a jar for future eating.