With this stuffed crab dish, I like to think of old Polaroid photos of a time-gone-by spending lazy summers on the coast; we crabbed during the day, floundered at night, and slept to the gentle Gulf breeze blowing through the screened windows.
Summer days spent crabbing at my family’s fishing camp near Slidell, Louisiana are some of my most vivid childhood memories. All I needed was a string and a chicken neck to load a five-gallon bucket in an afternoon. I recall sitting on the dock as the adults drank beer, and we all cleaned a huge pile of big blues for making stuffed crab. “Pull out the dead man!” my dad cautioned, and with wide-eyed attention, I listened.
Cleaning crabs to make my Stuffed Crab recipe is pretty easy work: After killing the crabs with a short parboil, it is simply a matter of removing the back and pulling out most of the funky stuff along with the eyes. But most important is the “dead man”: the feathery gill sacks that line the inside cavity. It is said that anyone who eats that would surely be a dead man. Although not exactly true, this 10-year-old wanted to live a long life, and I wasn’t about to cross my dad or the dead man.
Stuffing crab backs with a moist breadcrumb dressing of hand-picked blue crabmeat is a coastal culinary tradition and a tasty Cajun recipe, and topping it with an herbal cream sauce punched with absinthe just makes this Stuffed Crab dish even more special.
- 8 crab back shells, cleaned
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup finely diced yellow onion
- ½ cup finely diced celery
- ½ cup finely diced green bell pepper
- ¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
- ½ tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ tablespoon chopped thyme
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons diced green onion tops
- Zest and juice of 1 medium-size lemon
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- Dash of hot sauce
- ½ tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups fresh dried breadcrumbs, divided, plus more if needed
- 1 pound lump white crabmeat
- 8 small sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup finely diced white onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup absinthe or an anise-flavored spirit
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- Kosher salt
- Preheat your oven to 375ºF.
- Inspect the crab shells to make sure they are cleaned and free of any loose shell pieces.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Sauté the onion, celery, and bell peppers until the onions turn translucent. Lower the heat and stir in the garlic, thyme, parsley, and green onion. Add the lemon zest and juice. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and let cool.
- Add the mayonnaise, Worcestershire, and eggs. Stir to combine and season with hot sauce, Cajun seasoning, white pepper, salt, and black pepper. Begin adding 1 ½ cups of the breadcrumbs and mix together to form a moist stuffing; add more breadcrumbs if necessary. Add the crabmeat and mix gently to distribute evenly throughout the mixture.
- Add the stuffing to the crab shells and top off with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs. Place on a metal tray and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until browned on top and cooked through.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the absinthe and be careful if it flames. Let the liquid reduce and the liquor cook off, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the cream; stir while the large bubbles begin to appear and moisture escapes. When thickened to coat the back of a spoon, season with white pepper and salt. Keep warm.
- For serving, move the stuffed crabs to a large platter and spoon over the warm cream sauce. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.
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