Creole Crab Imperial

Classic crab imperial usually involves lump crabmeat combined with mayonnaise or a sherried white sauce, spooned into shells, sprinkled with cheese, and baked till golden brown. Indeed, there is no more impressive, richer dish in all of Southern cookery. In Louisiana, however, cooks often transform the dish completely by incorporating additional ingredients, including a spicy Creole mustard, and serving it chilled on a bed of lettuce or red cabbage leaves. I still love to serve traditional hot crab imperial for an intimate, rather formal dinner any time of the year, but when the warm weather comes, nothing is more appropriate for a deck luncheon than this zesty chilled version. The measurements for these ingredients are precise, so don’t tamper.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  • ½ cup minced scallions (part of green tops included)
  • 4 tablespoons minced green bell pepper
  • 4 tablespoons minced celery
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • cups mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Creole mustard
  • tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup well-drained and minced pimento
  • Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
  • 4 leaves red cabbage
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Method

In a large skillet over low heat, melt the butter. Add the scallions, bell pepper, celery, and salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, till the vegetables are softened completely, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and let cool slightly. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire, pimento, and Tabasco, mix lightly, and let cool further.

Place the crabmeat in another large bowl, add the mayonnaise mixture, and blend gently to coat the crabmeat without breaking up the lumps. Chill for 1 hour.

To serve, spoon equal amounts of the crabmeat onto the cabbage leaves arranged on 4 salad plates and sprinkle each serving with chopped parsley.