Ever wondered how we created Garlic Dust?
It was a cold and snowy day in the Midwest….
Just kidding! 🥴
Long ago, in what now feels like another lifetime, I wanted a way to eat steamed blue crabs, every day. Sounds crazy right?!?!? But it’s true. I don’t know what else was going through my head but that was definitely at the forefront.
Anyway, I began researching what it would take to buy and sell live blue crabs on the streets of Georgia, like we did when I was a kid in Philly. So, that’s not really a great option for the southeast US, that I could determine.
Onto the next thought.
What about a crab shack? You know, like a little hut/structure that doesn’t move but only sells live or steamed crabs. There are those in Philly as well. But then trying to find a place that didn’t cost an arm and a leg to set up shop became prohibitive.
In the meantime, I spent my weekends traveling around the SE US trying to make contacts in the seafood world. Let me tell you, being a Black woman interested in join that industry was just like being a Black woman in tech. But my love for crabs makes almost anything worth it.
One of my trips to Florida had me stopping by any and all seafood markets or anything that said ‘crabs’ to find out where they got their products, what they sold and anything else I could learn.
Now, if you know me, you know I cannot, I mean CANNOT leave a store I like empty handed.
It’s a sickness, I tell ya!
One I haven’t cured and don’t plan to anytime soon.
What did I buy from ALL THESE SEAFOOD MARKETS AND CRAB SPOTS I visited????
Garlic Crab Trays, duh!
What’s a garlic crab tray?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
Here’s a picture of one
The best ones start with live blue crabs caught in either the east coast of the US aka the Atlantic Ocean or in the southeast US, the Gulf of Mexico area.
Sorry, the cousin of the blue crab sometimes called swimming crabs, found in the waters closer to Asia, is not the same. So don’t even consider it*.
- Acquire crabs: Ok so you get your hands on a bushel of crabs. I prefer #1s but #2s and #3s are acceptable. (don’t know what those mean? Check out my blog on Live Blue Crabs for a quick lesson).
- Cook da crabs: Now depending on if you grew up eating crabs closer to Maryland or Texas will influence how you cook them. Us from the northeast tend to lean towards steaming our crabs with heavy seasoning (you can check out my recipe for steamed blue crabs here). And our more southern friends are the boiling type.
Now a well-cooked crab is a well-cooked crab so when push comes to shove, I’ll eat them all. But if I’m planning to hang out with my dad and siblings eating a bushel of crabs and watching RedZone® on NFL Network® on the perfect Sunday in autumn, then my crabs should be steamed, only.
But after living in the south for some years and chatting with locals when making different dishes, boiling crabs in WELL-SEASONED liquid, has its advantages. One being, if you are going to sell a product with cracked crabs in it as a cold item a customer will heat up later, THEN the extra moisture that boiling affords is not a bad thing.
All this to say the people I learned how to make garlic crabs from, boiled their crabs. And they were magnificent.
- Clean-up: This is the part that a lot of people dislike when it comes to eating crabs. Blue crabs are the smallest in the edible crab arena.
I get it! A lot of work for little payout.
But, here me out, I find it soothing. I don’t mind cleaning crabs while watching a movie or football.
So, after I’ve had my fill of eating crabs then I spend time cleaning them. This just means removing the back shell and taking out some of the insides.
Intestines are removed, and what we’ve always called dead-man fingers (I think technically they are a part of the crab’s breathing/filtering system but “dead-man’s fingers kinda stick with you”). Anyway, we remove that stuff and for some people (if you got any female crabs) they remove any roe or what we call the mustard. For garlic crabs, I’ll personally remove most of the roe but as a crab-lover I will never willing junk the mustard. Partaking in the mustard of a crab can be as polarizing as enjoying pineapple on pizza. My brother, as a kid, would use a paper towel to get all the mustard out of his crabs and sometimes even go so far as to rinse his crabs under running water. (BRUH! Ha ha ha kidding! But it IS sacrilege in my humble opinion).
We leave legs attached and then crack them in half, so they fit better in whatever container we use.
- Prepare the tray: This is where my knowlege increased.
Now remember, I was in the midst of driving around different areas of coastal Georgia and Florida trying to find connections for my future business. Well, a lady who owned a market just north of Tampa mentioned some crabbers in Darien, Georgia. (Darien is between Savannah and the Jacksonville) as a possible source for my future business.
While up to this point, I ate countless garlic crab trays. This relationship yielded not only more garlic crabs to eat and future product to sell, but they taught me how to make them myself. And just like all the recipes I learned from my grandmother and mother, there were NO NUMBERS INVOLVED. Zilch. Zero. So, for the next 15 years of my life, I only knew how to make them by feel and sight.
It became a staple item I made for family and friends. And when I got into catering, I used it there. And one day, someone asked if I’d sell them the blend so they could make their own garlic crab trays at home. And a business was born. Well, the idea. Because if you’ve ever done recipe testing for something you just make then you can imagine my struggle. Long story short (too late!) after tons of trial and error, I created a product I’m proud of and it makes creating your own garlic ‘anything’ trays at home so easy.
- I start with a recyclable or disposable food tray. If you need easy and quick you can buy these. Or here are some environmentally friendly ones or if you're looking for big containers try aluminum pans
- Cover the bottom with a thin layer of melted butter/margarine, liquid butter alternative or even Parkay. It’s not the healthiest of options but I find margarine/liquid butter alternative or Parkay® to be better than real butter. Real butter will separate and evaporate quicker as it gets cold then reheated. Whereas the other stuff is a bit more stable. (Remember I made decisions for resale)
- Sprinkle 1-2 TBSP of Garlic Dust on the butter mixture.
- Place an even layer of seafood to cover all the butter. This works great for blue crabs, snow crab legs, Dungeness crab legs or shrimp.
- And just like a lasagna, repeat the layers till you get to the top of the container or run out of seafood!
- Each container can be heated in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes from the fridge.
And that is the story of how Garlic Dust came to be!
Oh! I forgot to mention, I originally called it Garlic Seafood but so many people got confused and thought it was only for seafood that we changed the name. Because Garlic Dust works on just about anything and you can buy it on Amazon!