Deviled crabs in the Lowcountry are often called simply “deb’l.” Crab recipes in the South invariably call for commercially prepared “crab boils.” Although I’ve included a formula for a homemade crab boil, in fact I usually improvise, depending on the serendipity of the moment, the projected use of the crabmeat, and the bounty of both my herb garden and my spice rack. Because I steam the crabs rather than boil them, I am partial to a simple addition of salt and hot pepper vinegar to the water, though some Lowcountry cooks add mustard, cloves, bay leaves, and allspice.
The following recipe is from Alice Marks, one of Charleston’s great cooks. She packs the devil into crab backs (in Gullah, “barks”) or scallop shells, wraps them well in aluminum foil, then freezes them for reheating later. One filled shell makes a rich appetizer or supper dish; serve two as dinner.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Sauté the onion and celery in the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until very limp. Let cool completely, then mix with the saltines. Squeeze the juice of ½ lemon, more or less to taste, over the crabmeat. Lightly fold the crabmeat into the mixture so that you do not break it up. Season to taste with sherry. Pack into shells and bake for about 15 or 20 minutes, until just heated through and lightly browned on top.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.