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Old Bay (Beyond Blue Crabs)

Rachel Tepper Paley
June 3, 2014

Photo credit: Artondra Hall/Flickr

Mid-Atlantic natives know well the pleasure of feasting on a bushel of blue crabs that have been powdered in a thick, zesty coating of Old Bay, then steamed. The pungent seasoning, a blend of herbs and spices including celery salt, red and black pepper, and paprika, was first developed back in 1939 (or 1940, depending on who you ask) by a German-Jewish immigrant named Gustav Brunn (who we’re guessing didn’t keep kosher).

Although the bright-yellow tins of Old Bay are stamped with the suggestion “For seafood, poultry, salads, meats,” the seasoning tends to be relegated to the realm of shellfish.

But broaden your horizons. You already know that Old Bay works in beer—here are seven other dishes that cry out for it:

Photo credit: Everyday Food

Old Bay Sweet Potatoes. Sweet potatoes taste even sweeter when they’re dusted with aromatic Old Bay and baked until golden brown.

Photo credit: Food52

Old Bay Aioli. Creamy aioli (you know, mayonnaise’s chic-er cousin) gets a spicy kick from a bit of Old Bay. Not afraid of heat? Add more of the fiery stuff (at your own risk).

Photo credit: Everyday Food

Chesapeake Bay Snack Mix. Old Bay is a common sight in dockside restaurants, but why not take it… trailside? Rice cereal, oyster crackers, pretzels, and unsalted peanuts are transformed into a piquant trail mix thanks to a good amount of Old Bay, hot-pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and fresh lemon juice.

Photo credit: Everyday Food

Spicy Turkey Thighs. Turkey: It’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore. Take it right into spring-summer territory with a liberal dousing of Old Bay, butter, and lemon juice. 

Photo credit: Everyday Food

Three-Cheese Macaroni. White Cheddar, Parmesan, and Monterey Jack are the marquee stars of this velvety noodle dish, but it’s the addition of Old Bay that steals the show, lending a tangy, just-barely-hot finish.

Photo credit: Everyday Food

Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks with Herb Dipping Sauce. Here the humble fish stick gets a modern makeover. Panko bread crumbs are amped up with a tablespoon of peppery Old Bay, and a dipping sauce of Dijon mustard, white horseradish, mayonnaise, and fresh parsley is a fresh, potent complement. 

Photo credit: Carmen Troesser/StockFood

Slow-Cooked Brisket Sandwiches. Even beef begs for Old Bay. Brisket is coated in a mixture of brown sugar, ground ancho and chipotle chili peppers, paprika, allspice, coriander, cumin, and (of course) Old Bay before a two-hour stint in the oven until it’s fork-tender and sweet-and-spicy.