Turns out, the secret was in the seasoning. (Now, my spice place of choice is Pendery's, in Fort Worth. Great little family-owned business where I get my Top Hat chili blend, online at Penderys.com, and I LOVE that place. But that's not what this is.) The cousin gave me the recipe, I came home and made the stew and...it wasn't right. My bad, I thought, so I made it again. And again, it wasn't right. At this point I got smart and called the cousin and in the course of explaining that something was missing, she mentioned that oh, it might be the seasoning.
The recipe had called for Old Bay. So I used Old Bay. But for the stew we had for Christmas/Valentine's, they had used Penzey's Chesapeake Bay seafood seasoning and Oh Joy! That was IT. Now, in this neck of the woods I usually order it online, but if you live in a real city there are Penzey stores everywhere. And the secret IS in the seasoning.
So here is Paige's Crab Stew. Which I make with crawfish but hey, that's me.
1/2 cup butter
1 package frozen seasoning blend
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
1 pound crab (I use crawfish. Shrimp works, too.)
1 tablespoon Penzey's Old Chesapeake
1/4 cup sherry
Optional: 1 20-ounce roll frozen creamed white corn
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the frozen seasoning blend. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the vegetables are soft. Sprinkle with the flour, stirring to incorporate, and cook for two to three minutes...you want to cook out the raw flour taste. Slowly add the milk and cream, stirring so that there are no lumps. Add the seafood, the Penzey's and the sherry and simmer for ten minutes, stirring frequently. (Optional: Along with the milk and cream, stir in a thawed roll of the creamed corn.) Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, Worchestershire and tabasco to taste.