More and more these days, I’m seeing traditional South Louisiana restaurants serving Cajun and Creole dishes with plate presentation techniques that impress. The days of a sprig of parsley and wedge of lemon are over. Simple things: a swish of sauce, a cedar plank fish, a scooped-out bread bowl, or even a “Frenched” bone exposed on a thick-cut pork chop can make a difference in the dining experience. As long as food quality is high and the prices are reasonable, I applaud the creativity. For me, it all breaks down when subpar food and a hefty check follows the fancy presentation. That might work in other restaurant cultures but not in Acadiana.
Here’s an example: Whenever I see the term “Napoleon” on a restaurant menu, it captures my culinary imagination. The vertical stacking of contrasting ingredients plays to the visual element of food presentation in a way that almost always impresses. And if the old saying “we eat with our eyes” is true, then these dishes rarely disappoint. But for me, fresh ingredients and skillful preparation always trump presentation, so I set out to create my Crab and Avocado Napoleon – a spin on a Napoleon recipe that delivers.
First, a word of caution: There is a trap door surprise in this towering Crab and Avocado Napoleon that will plunge this tranquil combination of two classic ingredients–crabmeat and avocado–into a cauldron of jalapeno-spiked tropical fruit. I promise: You will be delighted by the contrast of texture, enchanted by the fresh taste, and giddy at the whimsy of how this Cajun recipe stacks up the flavor.
Structurally, there are three key elements to this Crab and Avocado Napoleon: ring molds, round glasses or bowls, and egg roll wrappers. Egg roll wrappers are found in any supermarket, and the glass receptacles should be easy to find (I’ve even used martini glasses), but I admit, the ring molds are a challenge.
A set of professional chef’s ring molds can cost a bundle, and besides, I wouldn’t know where to find them anyway. But umm, let’s think about this. Metal ring molds? Metal cans of vegetables? A can opener. So simple: find the size can you like and for maybe a dollar each, you’ve got a set of ring molds. Open the cans at both ends and peel off the labels–voila! And you can eat the vegetables, too. So, those ring molds didn’t really cost you anything.
Ok, now that you’re set, let’s build this Crab and Avocado Napoleon that will impress both your eyes and your taste buds.
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small can of anchovy fillets
- Pulp from 1 medium ripe avocado
- Dash of hot sauce
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup diced ripe mango, peeled
- ½ cup diced pineapple
- ½ cup diced watermelon, seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
- 2 tablespoons finely diced green onion
- 2 tablespoons finely diced jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sugarcane vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Creole mustard or coarse-grained mustard
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- Pulp from 2 firm, but ripe avocados
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 8 ounces white jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
- 4 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- 4 large egg roll wrappers
- 4 sprigs cilantro
- In the container of a blender, add mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, cilantro, and garlic cloves. Open the anchovies and empty the fillets into the blender along with the oil in the tin. Add the pulp of the avocado into the blender and a dash of hot sauce along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cover and blend on high until completely smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning to taste. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
- In a mixing bowl, add the mango, pineapple, watermelon, onions, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro. Stir to combine.
- In a separate mixing bowl, add the juices, vinegar, honey, and mustard. While whisking, slowly drizzle the olive oil until an emulsion forms. Add the mixture to the fruit and stir to combine. Add a pinch of salt. Cover and chill.
- In a mixing bowl, add the avocado pulp and the lemon juice. Toss to combine.
- In a mixing bowl, add the crabmeat.
- Place 4 ring molds on a clean platter. Add a portion of avocado pulp and then a layer of lump crabmeat on top. Repeat, cover and chill in the refrigerator.
- In a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil and bring to a temperature of 375ºF. One at a time, add the egg roll wrappers and watch as they puff up and begin turning golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until crisp. Remove to a wire rack. Repeat with all and keep warm.
- For serving, take 4 small glass bowls and spoon in a portion of the salsa. Top each with a fried egg roll wrapper. Remove the ring molds from the platter with a thin metal spatula and place on top of the wrapper. Carefully remove the ring mold.
- Spoon 1 (generous) tablespoon of the dressing over the crabmeat and garnish with a sprig of fresh cilantro.
- Instruct your guests to crack through the crispy wrapper so that all the ingredients combine. Serve extra dressing on the side.
YOUR SEAT AT THE TABLE: If you like this Cajun cooking story and Cajun recipe then accept my personal invitation to subscribe by entering your email at the bottom or top right of this page. It’s quick and painless. You will receive an email alert and be the first to see when new Cajun cooking stories and Cajun recipes are added. Thanks, George.