The unmistakable flavor of Old Bay seasoning is the key ingredient in many seafood dishes north, south and west of the Chesapeake Bay, particularly anything to do with crab and crayfish.

But phooey for me, I'm allergic to a few ingredients in this classic blend. So I came up with my own version.

The first dish I made with it was these New Bay Sweet Potato Fries. It was a very good choice. Don't expect these fries to get super crispy — sweet potato fries have a hard time doing that, especially in the oven. But what they lack in crispness they make up for in soulful flavor and warm color.

Don't worry about perfect potato sticks. You're not entering a French fry-making contest. The easiest way to get nice long fries, however, is to peel the potatoes, cut them lengthwise into 1/4-inch slabs, and then stack those up a few at a time and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick sticks.

I keep empty dried herb and spice jars to store various blends and rubs that I make. Just use a jar that contained one of the seasonings you are including in your blend, and make sure to label the jar.

Then get ready to have some fun with your New Bay Seasoning (and you'll have some left to play with after you make the fries).

Some uses for this blend:

— Crab cakes, of course.

— Added to flour and used as a coating for fried or baked seafood, fish or chicken. Dip the item in beaten egg or milk first.

— Added to jambalaya, gumbo, and other Creole or Cajun dishes.

— Blended with sour cream or mayonnaise for a fast and easy dip for cooked shrimp.

— Mashed into potatoes, or cauliflower puree.

— Stirred into eggs before scrambling.

— Sprinkled over olive oil-brushed pitas, baked, and cut into triangles for appetizers or snacks.

— Added to egg salad and deviled eggs.

— Used as a rub for fish, seafood, chicken or pork — think pork loin, kebabs, whole roast chicken or pieces (over or under the skin).

SWEET POTATO FRIES WITH NEW BAY SEASONING

Servings: 6

Start to finish: 35 minutes

2 tablespoons celery salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks about 1/4-inch wide in each direction

2 tablespoons vegetable, canola or peanut oil

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

In a clean jar with a lid, combine the celery salt, paprika, dry mustard, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, black pepper, ginger and cloves. Shake well to thoroughly combine.

Place the sweet potatoes on two separate rimmed baking sheets (line the baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment if you have it). Make sure there is enough room so the fries can have space between them as they cook. Drizzle the oil evenly over the sweet potatoes, and toss to coat the potatoes with the oil. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the seasoning blend over the fries on each of the baking sheets, and toss again to make sure the sweet potato fries are evenly coated with the spice mixture. Again, make sure there is some space between the fries.

Bake for 10 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the fries around and switch the baking sheets in the oven so that the bottom one ends up baking on top. Bake for another 8 to 12 minutes, until they are lightly browned in spots and very tender. Serve hot.

___

Nutrition information per serving: 96 calories; 41 calories from fat; 5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 602 mg sodium; 13 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 1 g protein.

___

Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, "Dinner Solved!" and "The Mom 100 Cookbook." She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.