Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Imperial Appetizer

I love crabs.  Specifically, I love blue crabs, and I miss them sorely now that I no longer live along the mid-Atlantic seaboard.  I love blue crabs so much, that when Joe and I were preparing to leave for California, I bought a giant tub of Old Bay seasoning to take with me, in case they didn’t sell it out there (they do).
Blue crabs as I am familiar with them exist from New York down to North Carolina and I am deeply in love with everything about them.  Just the thought of a big steaming pile of crabs covered with Old Bay can make me salivate.  I have a long history with blue crabs; catching them, cooking them, racing them, reading books about them and so on.  But I will only share a little of this knowledge with you here today.  This is due mostly to the fact that I did not cook with blue crabs this weekend. 
Here in Maine we have the Jonah crab or the Peekey-Toe crab.  The meat is stringy and sweet but I think it lacks the depth of flavor and heft that fresh blue crab has.  In a pinch (yes, pun intended) local crab will suffice for me.  No, this is not a crab cake recipe, as the Maine crab meat couldn’t hold up to the ingredients or flavors in my recipe.  Instead I am going to give you my version of Crab Imperial. 
Basically, crab imperial is the stuffing when anything is ‘stuffed with crab.’ It’s darn tasty and there are several different schools of thought which, can be much disputed depending on where you are and with whom you are conversing.  I like my crab imperial to have a little zing and to not have any breadcrumbs in it.  You can make this into a straight dip, or stuff it into things, like mushrooms and shrimp. 
This weekend I stuffed tiny little bell peppers with the crab since they are all over the farmers’ markets.  Some crab imperial recipes call for minced bell pepper, so I thought this would be a unique twist on it.
Don’t worry I’ll share my wild and crazy crab stories with you another time, maybe when I have access to fresh live blue crabs.

Crab Imperial
I like to use fresh crab.  There is usually canned blue crab available in the supermarket, but it is usually from the Philippines, extra salty and overall not very good tasting.  If you can get fresh local crab meat – use that instead.

1 8 oz. container fresh local crab
3 Tb mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. shallot, minced
¼ tsp. capers, chopped very fine
¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. Old Bay Seasoning

8 mini stuffing peppers
Shredded cheese for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Core the peppers by running a knife vertically into the pepper around the stem, and pull out the stem and seed core.  Flick out any remaining seeds and pull out the white pith if it is thick.  Leave the pepper intact.

In a small bowl combine mayo, mustard, shallot, capers, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay. Stir until everything is well coated. The mixture will be runny.  Stuff crab mixture into peppers and sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the peppers are soft, the cheese is melted and the crab mixture looks a bit more dry.  Serve immediately.

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