Lowcountry Crab Au Gratin

 

 

This would make a luxurious snack for a Super Bowl party on Feb. 5. Go . . . whomever!

My sister and I are known for our themed Thanksgivings. I made this sumptuous spread for a Thanksgiving appetizer last year, the theme being Southern. When we did our research, we discovered we already made some traditional Southern dishes, such as cornbread dressing and corn casserole. But last year we added ham, sweet potatoes, Cajun dirty rice, brown-buttered corn and biscuits. The other appetizers were pimento cheese spread, bourbon-candied bacon, and shrimp.*

This recipe, a keeper, is from The Savannah Cookbook by Damon Lee Fowler.

I used a 1 lb. can of lump blue crab meat, making this expensive enough to fall into the treat category. You most likely can find it in the chilled case at your grocery’s seafood counter. I was thrilled to get it on sale for $15; it’s usually $20 to $25.

 

Lowcountry Crab Au Gratin

 

1 lb. crabmeat

1/4 cup finely minced shallots, onion or leeks

1 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 tsp. all-purpose flour

1 cup light cream (I used reduced-fat half-and-half with no problems)

1 to 2 tsp. lemon zest (optional, I happened to have some)

1/4 cup medium dry sherry

2 tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I used regular shredded Parmesan)

Salt, ground cayenne and nutmeg to taste

1/4 cup fine cracker crumbs, using buttery crackers such as Townhouse or Ritz

1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar

 

Pick over the crab and remove any bits of shell or cartilage.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute the onion in a tablespoon of butter over medium heat until softened but not colored, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for another minute. Slowly stir in the cream and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, and reduce the heat to medium low.  Simmer, stirring, until lightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in sherry, return to a simmer and turn off heat.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 400 degrees. Lightly butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole or four ramekins.

Fold the crab and Parmesan into the cream mixture. Season to taste (the crab is already cooked) with salt, cayenne and nutmeg. Spoon evenly into the casserole or the ramekins.

Melt the remaining butter in a small skillet over low heat. Stir in the cracker crumbs and toss until the butter is evenly absorbed. Sprinkle the Cheddar evenly over the casserole or ramekins and top with the buttered crumbs.  Bake until the filling is bubbly and the cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot with crackers or crostini.

 

*In case you wondered, our desserts were Apple Bourbon Bread Pudding with Bourbon Cream Sauce (yum!) and Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Chess Pie. Yes, we cook for a few days to get all this done. While we like turkey and ham, my sister and I are all about the side dishes. That is clear from our plates. Past themes include Southwestern (we had to scrape the mole sauce off, it was so spicy), New England, German, Italian and Thanksgivukkah.

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