Thursday, May 11, 2006

Crab Imperial for Real

Even here in Maryland, most imperial crab recipes are a bit too heavy for my taste on their proportion of fatty or creamy ingredients relative to crabmeat. Though true to its name, crab imperial should be rich, though with plenty of room for variation. I grew up on imperial crab that I remember as having been "perfect." Unfortunately, the source of our family recipe appears to have been lost.

I recently uncovered an unpublished "Maryland" cookbook authored by my maternal grandfather, who was British. Having just now pulled it out for reference, I'm inspired. therein is a recipe for "imperial devil crab." It uses melted butter instead of mayonnaise, and hard-boiled eggs are a key ingredient. Although it could end up the subject of a future post, Grandaddy's recipe is nothing like the recipe I grew up with. What follows, however, is.

It comes from Private Collections, A Culinary Treasure, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, MD, 1973, and was contributed by Eleanor Holliday Cross. Here's what James Beard, who authored this book's introduction, had to say:

"Such books are the history of American regional food. I feel certain this volume will be a shining star in the galaxy of Americana. It represents the best food in its community."


1 pound back fin crab meat---unpasteurized Atlantic crabmeat if possible
3 tablespoons plus four teaspoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced green pepper
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 egg, well beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
4 scallop shells---all we had available for the above photograph were clam shells.
Paprika for dusting

Pick over the crab meat and mix the other ingredients together. Pour them into the crab meat and toss gently with a fork to keep the crab meat from breaking. Have ready 4 scallop shells. Melt 1 heaping teaspoon of butter in each scallop shell and pile the crab mixture on top. Top each with 1 teaspoon additional mayonnaise and dust with paprika. Bake 20 minutes until browned.

From Private Collections, A Culinary Treasure, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, MD, 1973