Savory Summer

Blue crab is a summer staple in Louisiana and is as versatile as it is delicious


The scientific name for the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) means “tasty (or savory) beautiful swimmer,” and that is a most fitting description considering how delectable crab is and how many ways it can be prepared and served. The sweet and tender meat is delicious with either mild or spicy seasonings in preparations as diverse as boiled crabs, crab salad, crab cakes, bisques, gumbos and étouffées and as a stuffing for vegetables or fish. Not to mention soft-shell crabs, one of our greatest delicacies, which can be deep fried, pan fried, broiled or grilled.

We are fortunate to have an abundance of blue crabs in Louisiana. The blue crab industry is one of the largest fisheries in the state, but it is estimated that at least 75 percent of the catch is exported, which accounts for the big price increases we have experienced in recent years. The main market for Louisiana crabs is the Chesapeake Bay area, where the crab population has been declining for decades. The Bay’s estimated crab population was about 227 million crabs in 2022, a 19 percent decrease from the previous year and a fraction of the 852 million crabs in the 1993 survey.

One of my favorite crab dishes is crab cakes, a preparation that varies greatly from one cook or restaurant to another. Unfortunately, some crab cakes contain too many breadcrumbs. There should be just enough binding to hold a crab cake together — and no more — so that the slight pressure of a diner’s fork will cause it to crumble. Lump or jumbo lump crabmeat is usually preferred for crab cakes, but price pressures may dictate using some claw crabmeat in the mix, which can actually improve the flavor of the dish. For a change from the usual mayonnaise-based sauces, try a piquant béarnaise sauce.

Two of the following recipes are simplicity itself. A quick and refreshing dish combines crabmeat with capers and lemon. Instructions call for only a quick warming of the crabmeat, but an alternative is to make a cold salad, with olive oil instead of butter, which requires no cooking at all. The recipe for crabmeat and asparagus with a mustard vinaigrette can be served at room temperature or chilled, depending on your preference.

The recipe for mirlitons with crabmeat requires a little more work, but the result is worth it. The crabmeat stuffing can be used with other vegetables, such as tomatoes or peppers or a combination of the two.


Recipes Crabmeatmirlitons

Mirlitons Stuffed With Crabmeat

2 small mirlitons (about 8 ounces each)
4 ounces lump crabmeat
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon freshly grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Cook mirlitons in boiling salted water until they’re easily pierced with a skewer, about 45 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Grease a baking dish and preheat oven to 350 F.

When cool enough to handle, cut mirlitons in half lengthwise. Scoop out flesh, leaving a quarter-inch shell. Season shell with salt. Chop mirliton flesh and combine with crabmeat and chives in a bowl. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Fill mirliton shells with crabmeat mixture. Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan and olive oil. Spoon over mirlitons. Bake until heated through, about 20-25 minutes minutes. Makes 4 servings.


Crabmeat With Lemon And Capers

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound lump crabmeat
1½ teaspoons capers, drained and rinsed
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

In a non-reactive skillet over medium heat, melt butter, add crabmeat and heat through. Add capers and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Makes 4 servings.


Recipes Crabmeatasparagus


Crabmeat And Asparagus With Mustard Vinaigrette

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly-squeeze lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne to taste
1 pound thin asparagus
1 pound lump crabmeat

Combine olive oil, lemon juice and mustard in a bowl and whisk until emulsified. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne.

Trim ends from asparagus and cook in boiling salted water until tender. Remove asparagus with tongs and drain
in a colander. Place asparagus on a clean kitchen towel and blot dry.

Divide asparagus among 4 serving plates and top with crabmeat. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Makes 4 servings.


Crab Cakes With Béarnaise

1 pound lump crabmeat (or lump and claw)
1 teaspoon Cajun/Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped green onion tops
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup breadcrumbs

For Frying
¼ cup clarified butter
¼ cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup breadcrumbs

For Serving
Béarnaise sauce (recipe follows)

Place crabmeat in a mixing bowl. Add Cajun/Creole seasoning, lemon juice, parsley, green onion tops, egg and breadcrumbs. Mix gently with a fork. Be careful not to break up crabmeat. Form mixture into 4 cakes.

In a large skillet, heat clarified butter on medium heat. Dredge crab cakes in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Fry until browned, about 4 minutes; turn and cook on the other side until browned, about 2 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper. Serve with béarnaise. Makes 4 servings.


Béarnaise Sauce

¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 black peppercorns, bruised with side of a large knife
Pinch salt
Dash cayenne
3 egg yolks
1 cup clarified butter
1 teaspoon chopped parsley

Combine wine vinegar, shallot, half of tarragon, peppercorns, salt and cayenne in a small pan and boil until reduced to a few tablespoons. Transfer to a stainless steel bowl and cool. Add egg yolks and whisk to combine. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook, while whisking, until mixture thickens. Begin slowly adding butter while whisking. Continue adding butter while whisking and moving bowl away heat and back in heat until butter is incorporated. Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a serving bowl. Add remaining herbs and stir to combine. Makes about 1 cup.


Categories: Food+Drink, Recipes