Baltimore Chef John Shields Adds Tofu To Crab Cakes Because Of High Costs Maryland is famous for its crab cakes. But the cost of crab and a shortage of the crustacean has Baltimore chef John Shields doing something radical.

Sacrilegious Or Just Economical? Famous Maryland Chef Adds Tofu To His Crab Cakes

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If you know Maryland food, you know the crabcake - soft patties made of fresh lump crab meat.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

But the main ingredient, blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay, have been harder to come by this summer.

JOHN SHIELDS: The price went crazy - you know, like crazy high. And for most people that would like to have a bunch of people over and make crabcakes or something, they probably would have to take a second mortgage to do that.

MARTIN: John Shields would know. He's the owner of Gertrude's restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the author of multiple cookbooks on Chesapeake Bay cooking.

SHIELDS: This has honestly been one of the toughest years ever for crabmeat.

INSKEEP: A labor shortage and low supply drove crab prices up so much this summer that some Maryland restaurants had to take it off the menu.

MARTIN: Shields is still offering his classic crabcakes at Gertrude's. But for the budget-minded and food curious, he has cooked up another option.

SHIELDS: I think I got a pound of tofu. It was organic tofu. And I thought, well, what about if I took the tofu and put it into pieces that were similar to, like, crabmeat?

MARTIN: A new special combines local extra firm tofu with lump crabmeat in a cake called the crabfulicious (ph).

INSKEEP: Fulicious (ph)?

MARTIN: (Laughter) Fulicious.

INSKEEP: OK. Go on.

MARTIN: The 50-50 split between tofu and crab makes it much cheaper than the traditional crabcake.

INSKEEP: If you're a crab purist, let the man explain himself.

SHIELDS: We're traditionalists here in the Chesapeake region - I mean, really, traditionalist. So you have to be careful, you know. This could be deemed sacrilegious, what I'm talking about here. But I think, you know, people could be a little adventurous, a little playful. You know, these are the kinds of things that actually could be done to see how we can still use crab meat, but we don't overuse it, and we can keep it in a price point.

MARTIN: Shields tells us feeding more people with less is something Chesapeake Bay home cooks have done for generations. Take the traditional Maryland crab soup, which combines crabmeat with cheaper ingredients like vegetables and barley.

INSKEEP: Yeah, so it's just like that.

SHIELDS: Just try it. Just try it, and see what you think. If you don't like it, fine. But I think that people will be pleasantly surprised.

(SOUNDBITE OF IHF'S "BRIDGE")

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