She stopped short of issuing a general invitation to her home, but it was clear that Judy Woodruff enjoys hospitality. And, when it comes to food, the respected newsperson and senior correspondent on PBS’ The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer knows how to dig into something besides a good story.
Specifically, her food love is all about Maryland Blue Crabs. Woodruff has a second home in on the Chesapeake Bay where she regularly entertains guests throughout the summerâ€”and a crab feast is at the top of her menu list. In our conversation, she told The Food Channel that she has entertained 100 people and more with a meal of fresh crabs, and side dishes such as corn on the cob and potato salad.
And this year, the crop is especially good, she says. â€˜Some years the yield is down, but this week has been really good!â€™
Her love of the blue crab started years ago. â€˜We’ve been going there since our son was two years old,â€™ she says. â€˜He’s now 27. One of the great loves for our whole family is to be able to catch and steam and eat Maryland Blue Crabs.â€™ Woodruff does confess that her husband isn’t quite an enamored as the rest of the family, and she keeps that in mind when entertaining. â€˜We always have back up food, like hamburgers and hot dogs. The crabs are challenging, if you’ve never taken one apart.â€™
Part of the charm for her is, however, that very challenge. â€˜It’s food you eat with your own hands,â€™ she explains. â€˜What I really love is that feeling that it uses more calories to get the crab out than you gain by eating it!â€™
While she calls the process â€˜messy,â€™ Woodruff does have some tips to make it easier:
â‹… Remember you should always open the crab on the side where there is already a slight opening.
â‹… Crabs are often referred to as having a â€˜tabâ€™ so you pull off the tab, then pry apart the upper shell from the lower.
â‹… Set aside the upper shell.
â‹… Take out the â€˜gills and innardsâ€™ from the lower part, and remove the â€˜mustardâ€™ â€“ but all of it is edible. Shell and all.
â‹… Crabs are better eaten outdoors. When taking them apart, just plan to get the hose out and water your hands off!
Woodruff says she’s, â€˜Not much of a cook â€“ this is one of the only things I do.â€™ When asked how, then, she got started on what some people see as a complicated dish, she explains, â€˜There were friends we knew who said, Ã¢â‚¬ËœYou must put a crab trap in the water.’ They showed us how to use chicken necks or gizzards as bait. You put the chicken parts in the trap and lower it into the water off the dock.â€™ The final step before cooking, she says, is to simply, â€˜Check it the next morning.â€™
As for the cooking the catch, her instructions for this delicacy have three simple steps:
1. Steam the crabs in a double boiler.
2. Put a lot of crab boil or spice in with the crabs.
3. When they turn bright red, after about 5-20 minutes of boiling, you can eat them.
Then, she says, you “literally open them up and enjoy!”
Maryland, here we come . . .
See Judy Woodruff’s favorite Maryland Blue Crab recipe.
Want more about the PBS Correspondent? Follow her on Twitter at woodrufj.