One of the most distinctive specialties of Baltimore and Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay area is the thick, brilliant orange, peppery crab soup found in casual restaurants such as The Chesapeake, Copsey’s, and Courtney’s. And it was after consuming two bowls of the fiery potage at Copsey’s (followed by a little local country ham stuffed with greens) that I came up with the idea of converting the soup into a milky chowder. This, of course, changes the whole nature of the dish, but I’ve yet to have guests who didn’t rave about the chowder. And it’s equally delicious made with half crabmeat, half shrimp.
In a large, heavy saucepan, fry the bacon over moderate heat till crisp, drain on paper towels, and reserve. Add the onions, potatoes, and water to the fat in the pan, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer till the potatoes are tender and most of the water is evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add the milk and half-and-half, stir, and return to a simmer. Add the crabmeat, tomato, Worcestershire, chili powder, and salt and pepper, return to a simmer, and cook slowly, stirring from time to time, about 20 minutes. Serve the chowder in soup bowls and sprinkle equal amounts of the reserved bacon over the top of each portion.
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