Crab Bisque Chincoteague is history in a bowl

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PHOTO COURTESY LAURA DAVIS Crab Bisque Chincoteague contains cheddar that gives it a nice bite and smidge of color. And there are no fillers — just pure unadulterated crab.

By Laura Davis, Eastern Shore of Virginia food columnist —

In the spring of 2019 I visited an estate sale on Chincoteague Island. Upon entering I could tell this was my kind of people — beautiful kitchen equipment, lovely nautically themed linens, and vintage Shore Stop drink coolers (growing up, everyone had one to take to the beach). 

All my favorite books lined the shelves – “Beautiful Swimmers,” “A Sand County Almanac,” “Chesapeake,” and Kirk Mariner’s entire collection. 

It was an older couple’s family beach house for decades, filled with treasures collected from a lifetime of loving this unique little spot I’m lucky to call home. I couldn’t help but feel an instant connection to the owner.

I bought quite a few items that day, but my favorite was a poster for the 1988 Crab Derby held in Crisfield, Md. Taped on the back is a copy of a check made out to Mrs. Joan Folio. 

She had entered her “Crab Bisque Chincoteague” in their recipe contest that year, and took home the grand prize, which was truly an honor. My mom and dad live in Crisfield, so that made it special to me as well.

I also had picked up a binder of recipes that she’d collected — that has every winning recipe from the Crab Derby going back all the way to 1963.

I’m pleased to report that her bisque recipe was in the binder as well. So when I got everything home and connected the dots, I was stoked. I couldn’t wait to make her recipe. It’s pretty much a standard cream of crab base — but the addition of lemon pepper seasoning really gives it a little something special. 

There’s a bit of cheddar that gives it a nice bite and smidge of color. And there are no fillers — just pure unadulterated crab.

After I’d posted the recipe on my blog, I Googled her and learned that she’d passed away in August of 2020 at age 86. 

A few months later, I got an email from a couple of her family members — including her granddaughter. 

They’d gone looking for her bisque recipe, and came across my post, and just couldn’t believe it. The Eastern Shore is such a small world — but has the best connections to a much larger one, doesn’t it?

We met that following summer when they came on vacation and have met for cocktails several times since then. It’s always such a treat to hear stories. She was such a character. 

Her son brought me a photo of her posing with the silver platter she won at the Crab Derby.

I have it proudly displayed on our refrigerator — along with Honor Roll certificates and artwork. I guess you could say I consider her family at this point.

Estate sales always make me a bit melancholy, but it brings a smile to my face knowing I am giving these things new life in our home. I hope it would bring a smile to hers, too. 

Cheers to you, Joanie!

Mrs. Joan’s Crab Bisque Chincoteague

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

4 cups whole milk

1 1/2 cups cream

3 Tbsp sherry

1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning

2 tsp seafood seasoning (J.O. #1 is my go-to)

3/4 cup shredded cheddar

1 lb lump crab meat

chopped parsley, for garnish

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk, cooking for about 2 minutes, to make a roux.

Slowly add the milk and heavy cream, whisking constantly, until mixture starts to thicken. About 5 minutes.

Whisk in cheddar, sherry, seafood seasoning, lemon pepper, and 1 Tbsp chopped parsley. Gently fold in the crab meat. Season to taste with salt.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with additional fresh parsley.

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