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.