Saturday, March 19, 2011

Crab Imperial on the Half Shell with a Blue Cheese & Bacon Wedge Salad for the International Incident Nostalgia Party


International Incident Nostalgia Party


I am sure that many of my fellow International Incident Nostalgia Party attendees - hosted as ever by the lovely and talented Penny aka Jeroxie - will share with us their fond memories of family recipes and dishes their their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, or fathers made and lovingly shared with them,  forever imprinting their little kid brains with Important Culinary Associations and Warm Family Feelings. Alas, as I have documented here before, I have no such memories. I did not stand at my mother's knee and watch in awe while she made a special cake or pastry or pasta dish - other than beans and cornbread, no family recipes were passed down to me, if indeed any ever existed in the first place.

But that doesn't mean I don't have fond memories of food. On the contrary! The kitchen and all its accoutrements may have been anathema to the women of my family, but there is one food-related thing my mom loved to do, and that was go out to eat. No chopping, no cooking, and, most important to her, I suspect,  no mess. And, as an only child who preferred the company of adults to that of children, going out to eat with my parents was one of my very favorite things to do. To me, it was an Event.

We went to places with names like The Embers or The Copper Kettle or - my favorite - the Red Horse Steakhouse. The dark wood interiors, the red velveteen chairs, the fireplace, the waiters in black vests, the cocktails - to my childish imagination, this was the height of sophistication.  My father would order a bourbon and ginger ale and grow belligerent; my mother had either a champagne cocktail or a brandy Alexander to help her ignore him. Meanwhile, I blissfully sipped on my Shirley Temple - saving the cherry for last, of course - perusing the menu while  unwrapping a cracker or a breadstick from its crackly cellophane sheath and smearing it with the port wine cheese that sat in a little pot in the middle of the table. The height of elegance.

My eye was always drawn to saucy seafood dishes with fancy-sounding  names. Lobster Newburg. Shrimp Scampi. Stuffed Flounder. Trout Almandine. Crab Imperial.  ... Ah, crab imperial. A glorious baked blend of mayonnaise and spices and sweet peppers and - in my neck of the woods, anyway - lump Maryland crab. At the Red Horse, it was served either as a main course in casserole form, or as an appetizer, in which case it arrived at the table in a crab-shell shaped metal tin. What kid wouldn't love that? Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find one in time to make this dish for the party, so instead I bought a few clams and used their shells (which I boiled after Poppa Trix enjoyed a steamed clam appy) instead.

And nothing goes better with some crab imperial than an old fashioned wedge salad - iceburg lettuce, blue cheese dressing,  and bacon. In fact, when I was kid,  thought there were only two kinds of lettuce: romaine for Caesar salads and iceburg for everything else. There are plenty of recipes for wedge salad out there, just pick one - I used David Lebovitz's blue cheese dressing, substituting yogurt for sour cream.

For my crab imperial, I looked through old cookbooks (including one produced in my hometown by the business ladies' association, which featured "[Senator] Barbara Mikulski's Crab Imperial") and  hunted around the internet and read a bunch of recipes, and eventually went with a combination that, in my palate's memory banks at least, most resembles the dish I had all those many many years ago.

It really took me back, and, if you grew up eating at weird faux opulent American restaurants in the 70s, I bet it'll take you back too.

 Crab Imperial

Just look at that opulent 1970s plating!
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise, divided
1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp Creole seafood seasoning
pinch salt
dash of Worcestershire sauce
dash Crystal hot sauce
1/4 red bell pepper, small dice
1/4 green bell pepper, small dice
1 lb jumbo lump crabmeat, preferably Maryland Blue Crab
1 egg, beaten until frothy
1 tbsp minced parsley, plus extra for garnish

Combine 3/4 cub mayo, the mustard, white pepper, half of the paprika, the Creole seafood seasoning, salt, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Gently combine the peppers and the crab. Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the crab, being careful not to break up those beautiful lumps of crab meat. Spoon into shells or individual ramekins and bake at 350 degrees F  for 20 minutes. (I had enough for 6 shells plus a mini casserole.) Meanwhile, combine the remaining mayonnaise and paprika, along with the egg and 1 tbsp of parsley. Remove the crab from the oven and turn the oven up to broil. Spoon the egg mixture over each serving  and place under the broiler until lightly brown. Garnish with parsley and serve.  I'm ready for my flashback, Mr. DeMille!

Thanks for coming to the nostalgia party - go check out what everyone else brought. Thanks for hosting, Penny!





25 comments:

  1. OMG this is to really die for... sensational flavors, gorgeous pictures what more can a foodie ask for? Wow!

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  2. Oh my... Wow! I could do with some seafood now.. and that looks utterly delicious!

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  3. I really love revisiting the old dishes once though of as 'fancy'. The first dishes I ever "researched" (back when I was a puppy) were Oysters Rockefeller and Coquilles St. Jacques. Fancy! My grandmother even gave me some Coquilles shells from her collection. I thought they were ashtrays (she lived at the beach).

    Its as if in those days they were trying to dream up ways to cover up the taste of seafood. So good though!

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  4. Trix - I LOVE your memories of eating out being an EVENT and the weird faux opulence. I, too, have fond memories of that :-) This is a very fancy 70s flashback - LOVE the bacon wedge salad :-)

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  5. I need both of you (mardi) and you... yes you to take me out on this weird faux opulent American restaurants - will be totally mind blowing for me.

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  6. Have never had anything like this before - and I think I want to try it! :D

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  7. wow, this does look like an event! a delectable event! to me, this looks like a fancy Maryland dish, with the crab and all. plus, what do you know of the 70s?

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  8. The crab dish looks delicious! And, I love the simplicity of a wedge salad. Yum!

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  9. yum! and i always welcome retro styling :P dijon makes everything taste good :P

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  10. It's so interesting looking back at what was considered stylish during different decades and how many vast changes there have been in three or four decades. I love the over the top faux opulence of the 70's. Gorgeous photos and great read, thank you for sharing.

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  11. I think I love crab in any way, even in this old fashioned one... after all I was a child in the 70's.

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  12. I remember all those things, Trix. Love what you did with it... is that sea glass?? Brilliant.

    Funny how great it is to go back to our pasts and harvest glowing memories of "going out dishes" with our parents. For me it was clams casino and oysters Rockefeller, they made me feel so grownup and sophisticated (although the oyster texture was 'weird' to my young self). I remember those wedges of lettuce sooo well... blue cheese dressing... yowza. The changes you made (like no faux bacon bits) makes it so much better.

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  13. now you know these two are just my kind of eating - and that crab dish - well you know how I like to take an idea, rearrange and add to the recipe to make it better and make it mine... you're done just that with this one... crab imperial is, was on my list to do but I don't think I can make it any better....yup, a bacon wedge is just perfect

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  14. I love crab and this looks amazing!

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  15. It is so fun to stroll down memory lane. I do enjoy crab imperial and your presentation is lovely!

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  16. I love your post, you are the best story teller. The presentation, crab imperial and salad look mouthwatering!

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  17. Fancy! This is gorgeous - can only imagine how it tastes.

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  18. Wow, absolutely love this! A beautiful dish, the pairing of the crab imperial with the salad, an excellent dish!

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  19. What a presentation. Mindblowing.

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  20. That forkful of delicious crab looks absolutely mouth-watering!! What a delightful shell full of taste:)

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  21. I have similar fond memories of eating out in the Steak Houses of my childhood...I still order the wedge salad with blue cheese whenever I see it (which is strangely in a lot of US Airport Bars) -- but you gotta indulge your Iceberg love when you can. Am I right? Theresa

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  22. Your comment on faux opulent 70s restaurants and Shirley Temple cocktails really took me back. And I loved anything seafood too, by 3 yrs old my main course was escargot a l'ail. Great dish and memory.

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  23. What a great memories! I bet these are the best meal you ever had. Hope you're having a great day.
    Blessings, Kristy

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  24. Stop it with this.

    You make me melt. Love it and you!

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  25. Fantastic dish... I love crab! And I don't care what decade it came from. :)

    I've never seen that wedge salad :/

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