Kitchn Love Letters

The Splurgy Ingredient I Pick Up Whenever I’m on Vacation (I Use It in Pasta, Salads, and More)

published Jun 30, 2022
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Family walking along beach against clear sky
Credit: Getty Images/The Good Brigade

Every year I have the pleasure of spending time in Maine. My husband’s family has a small cabin on the coast, and I’ve waxed poetic many times about how it’s my most favorite place to be. Why do I love Maine so much? The food, mostly. Sure, the towns are super charming, the hiking is great, and the beaches are beautiful. But the abundance of local delicacies — namely, the access to beautiful produce and fresh-caught seafood — is really what gets me excited.

One such delicacy that I only eat during these trips and look forward to each year is the Maine crabmeat, which I buy at our local fish market. I used to think crabmeat was crabmeat, until I had Maine crab. It’s sweet, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth — basically all things good. According to the University of Maine’s Seafood Guide, “‘Maine crabmeat’ comes from two species: ‘peekytoe’ or rock crab, and Jonah crab.”

At $17.50 for a half-pound of picked crabmeat at our local store, this is most definitely a splurge. But it’s always worth it to me for a number of reasons. Beyond the aforementioned taste and texture, there’s also the benefit of it being ready-to-use — no cooking or picking required! And then there’s the crab’s versatility.

Have you ever had a crab melt? I had my first at the now-closed Salt Water Farm restaurant and have been trying to recreate it ever since. There’s buttery toasted bread, creamy mayo, some fresh herbs, and the picked crabmeat, all topped with melty, golden-brown cheese. I also use the crab in my father-in-law’s crab dip recipe, which is similar to a spinach-artichoke dip base but with crab instead (yes, it’s as good as it sounds). I’ve also been known to add the crab to cheesy pasta bakes and quesadillas.

If all of those ideas sound a bit rich, well, to me that’s kind of the point of crab! But I do also include it in lighter fare. I’ll add it to cold, crunchy salads made with all the farmers market veg I buy in the summer. It’s also great twirled into some spaghetti or linguine with a raw tomato-garlic sauce, some arugula, and fresh Parm.

If you ever find yourself in Maine, I highly suggest picking up a tub of picked crabmeat while you’re there — I consider it as essential as having a lobster roll and a slice of blueberry pie. And if you’d rather have some crabmeat sent right to your door, there are many places that can make that dream happen. One great option is Sopo Seafood, which can facilitate next-day overnight shipping.

What’s your favorite splurgy item to buy on vacation? Let us know in the comments.