Holiday Bites: Chef Jordan Lloyd shares his personal food traditions
By Manning Lee | Photos by Stephen Walker
Way down in the far reaches of Talbot County, past Saint Michaels, and over the Knapps Narrows drawbridge, and a stone’s throw away from the Tilghman Island Country Store, lies the fantastic Wylder Tilghman Island, a 100-year-old restored 50-room boutique hotel run by John Flanagan. It’s Tilghman Island’s must-see answer to a summer family resort reminiscent of simpler days. As it turns out, it’s also a cozy place for spending the holiday season with family and friends.
Contributing to Wylder Tilghman Island’s new popularity as a weekend destination is world-class and Shore homegrown chef, Jordan Lloyd. We all came to know Lloyd from the Bartlett Pear Inn in Easton where he created some of the most delectable dishes that even Zagat fell in love with. Now he’s finds himself at home in an unlikely, but delightful spot, Tickler’s Crab Shack at Wylder’s.
“I feel connected to Tickler’s Crab Shack and the food we serve there. Being from the Shore, I’m excited that I get to focus on extremely classical old Eastern Shore recipes and dishes with real intent and purpose. I think the surprise for Tickler’s is in the execution of the very classical dish that everyone has seen before. The difference is that the flavors are heightened because we’re using fresh ingredients made from scratch, and the sauces made with local cheeses and fresh eggs. My task is really about showcasing these old school recipes with natural local ingredients,” said Lloyd.
Speaking about the holiday season, I asked Chef Lloyd what memories stood out for him about the holiday season, his family gatherings and about the food that shaped his childhood that in turn inspire his holiday menu selections.
“I guess for me the holidays always seemed like I was surrounded by delicious food. We had oysters — Oysters Casino, Oysters Rockefeller, and oysters on the half shell. My stepdad would come home with a bushel of oysters. We’d shuck them and put them in little cupcake tins. For Oysters Casino we’d put on a piece of bacon, some peppers, onions, and a little ketchup,” he explained.
“For us, Christmas always seemed to be about the hors d’oeuvres. The main dinner was always good, but the hors d’oeuvres, like the oysters and the hushpuppies, cheese platters, and pickles were everywhere. It never mattered how many people there were or how much everybody ate, but it always looked like no one had ever put a dent in anything. The food was always so plentiful. That’s what I think about when I think of the Shore. There’s always such an abundance of beautiful food surrounding us. For me, it almost feels like a fertile crescent of remarkable food to play with in my world,” Lloyd said.
One of Tickler’s Crab Shack recipes they will be serving this season, reminiscent of Lloyd’s childhood Christmases, is blue crab hushpuppies with rosemary buttermilk. I asked him where he found such a wonderful recipe. I expected that he had this recipe handed down for generations, but he explained, “I made it up! You know, in a lot of my recipe work I will study five or six recipes and then I start manipulating them to what works. Then I test and retest. For the hush-puppy recipe batter, I probably tested a dozen times before it was right,” Lloyd described.
Lloyd is a culinary storyteller, devoted to telling an authentic tale of place on every plate. He immerses himself into his native Shore to bring together a narrative, not just about seafood and not just about Shore food. For Lloyd, his holiday cuisine is part of an equation that invites togetherness for the holidays on the Shore.
21551-A Chesapeake House Dr, Tilghman, MD 21671
Open Thursday-Friday: 4 p.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m -9 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m -5 p.m.
Blue Crab Hushpuppies with
Recipe by Jordan Lloyd
26 oz cornmeal
6.5 oz all purpose flour
1 tbsp Chesapeake seasoning
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tbsp baking soda
½ spanish onion, minced, rinsed & dried
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup herbs, finely minced (parsley, thyme, tarragon and/or chives)
1½ cups buttermilk
1½ cups water
6 eggs, whole
2 lbs fresh Maryland crabmeat (1 lb jumbo lump, 1 lb mix lump is best), picked of shells
Tickler’s Rosemary Buttermilk Sauce
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp, parsley, chopped
1 tbsp chives, chopped
1½ tsp sea salt
¾ tsp black pepper
Combine buttermilk & mayonnaise in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Stir in lemon zest & juice. Add garlic, herbs, salt & pepper. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for one hour to set up and allow flavors to meld.
Mix the dry ingredients together & set aside. Prepare the fresh ingredients, mix together & set aside. Whisk the eggs in a bowl vigorously and then mix with the milk & buttermilk.
Mix the fresh ingredients with the wet ingredients. Pour this on top of the dry ingredients. Add the special addition of clean crab meat across the mixture. Mix very lightly being careful not to over mix. The mixture should appear well incorporated while still remaining a bit lumpy. Overmixing will create a chewy hushpuppy instead of a light & airy cornmeal morsel, much like a pancake batter. Allow the batter to rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before use. The mixture will last in the refrigerator without losing quality up to 24 hrs.
Hushpuppies are best deep-fried. I prefer to use safflower oil because of its healthier approach to frying. The temperature should be set at 340 degrees. With a small spoon or 1 oz scoop, dig a ball out of your container and drop in the hot oil. In the fryer, you want to place a number of hushpuppies that fit without overcrowding or dropping the fryer temperature. Allow the hushpuppies to cook until they float continuously for about 2 minutes. You can check the batch by breaking into one before pulling them all out of the hot oil. Another method my kitchen and I use is to insert a cake tester in the center of one of the hushpuppies. If the center is lukewarm or less, you need to cook another moment, if it’s hot, it’s done! The center should be a fluffy cornbread appearance.
Pull the hushpuppies out of the hot oil with a slotted spoon onto paper towels. Allow to rest a minute before serving. Many sauces would be tasty with this Eastern Shore favorite.