Three of the most beautiful words in the English language are “jumbo lump crabmeat.”
Taken on their own the words are nothing special. If one were playing an association game, the first thing that came to mind upon hearing the word “jumbo” might be an elephant or maybe something connected to a circus. There is nothing tasty and delicious about an elephant or the circus.
The word “lump” is nothing to get excited about and is probably most often considered a negative word. No one wants a lump. In the food world “lumpy” is never a good thing. Just ask an avid oatmeal eater.
Crabmeat is a great word, but there are several versions of crabmeat that don’t get people excited, “special white crabmeat,” “backfin,” and “tail meat” aren’t the most marketable descriptions out there.
Though when one hears those three beautiful words in unison—“jumbo lump crabmeat”— one knows that a tasty dish must be lurking somewhere around the corner.
If you love fresh crabmeat, these are your salad days.
I am up to my receding hairline in jumbo lump crabmeat. Every August when crabmeat is most plentiful and at its peak in quality we roll out a special feature menu in one of our restaurants featuring crabmeat. People love it. They start asking about it in May. They are worked into a fever pitch in June, and by the end of July it’s a question asked and answered every hour— “what’s on the crabmeat menu this year?”
Last week we blew through 200 pounds of fresh Gulf crabmeat. We’ll purchase even more this week.
The people of south Mississippi love crabmeat. I love crabmeat. I once had a buddy who didn’t care for it and I told him, “I don’t think we can be friends if you don’t like crabmeat.” It’s not that I was trying to be cruel or anti-social, I just can’t imagine having anything in common with someone who didn’t appreciate the beauty of one of God’s most supreme gifts from the sea.
Fresh Gulf crabmeat is one of our greatest edible resources. The crabs that are harvested in the Gulf of Mexico are better than any out of the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, or Kelsey’s Pond or Kelsey’s Crick, and even better than crabmeat that comes from Maryland.
A little known fact is that during a large portion of the year Marylanders are eating crabmeat shipped up from the Mississippi Gulf Coast when the colder months put Chesapeake crabs into dormancy and their harvesting season slows down.
I spent my youth crabbing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We baited traps every morning and harvested our catch at dusk. Every night there was a big pot of crab boil on the stove as my mother cooked the crabs and my brother and I picked the shells clean of any and all meat.
That’s a crappy job. The shells are hard and jagged, the guts make a mess, and there is way more to throw away than to keep. Though, maybe more than anything else, it proves a point about how great crabmeat is and that the end result is worth the effort.
As a 10-year old kid I had the attention span of a gnat. I would have been the poster boy for ADHD had we known what it was back in the early 1970s. I couldn’t sit still even when bribed with money. Though set 20 pounds of boiled crabs in front of me, armed with the knowledge that I will be eating West Indies Salad at the end of the picking, and I will be as focused as a fighter pilot.
I still have the attention span of a gnat. Though nothing grabs and holds my attention more than a dish made with crabmeat. I like it baked with a little sherry and cream, I like it gently sautéed and used as a topping for fresh Gulf fish, and I like it gently tossed in a salad.
In interviews I am almost always asked, “what is your favorite ingredient?” I can name that dish in three notes— jumbo lump crabmeat.
West Indies Salad
1 lb Crabmeat, jumbo lump
1 /2cup Red onion, chopped fine
1 /4 cup Canola oil
1 /4 cup White vinegar
1 Tbl Parsley
1 Tbl Hot Sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Salt
1 /2 tsp Black pepper
Gently combine all ingredients and refrigerate overnight. Serve on sliced tomatoes, a bed of lettuce or as an appetizer with crackers. Yield: four to six servings
1 /2 cup Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
2 Egg Yolks
1 Tbl. Sherry
1 Tbl. Creole Mustard
1 Tbl. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp. Crescent City Grill Creole Seasoning
1 tsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. Crescent City Grill Cayenne & Garlic Sauce
1 /3 cup Red bell pepper, small dice
1 /3 cup Green bell pepper, small dice
1 lb. Jumbo lump crabmeat
1 /2 lb. Backfin lump crabmeat
2 8oz. wheels Brie or Camembert cheese, cut into 1 /2 inch cubes
6 Tbl. Seasoned bread crumbs
8 Oven-proof ramekins or scallop shell
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the first eight ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wire whisk. Stir in peppers. Gently fold crabmeat into liquid mixture making sure not to break up the crabmeat lumps.
Place a layer of crabmeat mixture into a 6 oz. ramekin, then 2 cubes of Brie and another layer of crab. Top with seasoned breadcrumbs and bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until bubbly and breadcrumbs are brown. Garnish with chopped parsley.