Friday, April 12, 2019

Eat Like an Empress! (or Emperor)

"Crab imperial" is a classic American dish popular along the east coast. Although it's not the healthiest of dishes, it is luxurious and I love it! The original crab imperial was created in the late 19th century at Thompson's Sea Girt House, located in Baltimore, Maryland. It was a gratin of back-fin lump crab in a mixture of diced onions, green bell pepper, and pimiento, all bound together in a thick cream sauce (bechamel) and topped with a slather of mayonnaise. This version remained very popular until the opening of Crisfield's Seafood Restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland in 1945. It was then that Lillian Landis (matriarch of the family) created Crisfield's version, called "Imperial Crab," which remains popular to this day. After Lillian complained that the original version of crab imperial was too heavy and that the other ingredients masked the gently sweet flavor of the crab, she created her version which consists of back-fin lump crab lightly bound together with Hellman's mayonnaise, flecked with minced green bell pepper, minced onion, and a topping of fresh bread crumbs. Although I have yet to visit Crisfield's, I plan on popping in the next time I'm in the area to check out the old-timey decor and try their Imperial Crab. FYI: I've heard their crab cakes are awful, referred to as tasting like sawdust!

Until then, I can always make my own version of crab imperial! Like Crisfield's, I like the crab meat to be the star, so I don't use green bell pepper, pimiento, or even add any onion. Instead, I gently fold together the crab with a seasoned mixture of Hellman's mayonnaise and spices, then instead of stuffing the mixture into crab shells or baking dishes, I mound the mixture on large portobello mushroom caps, top each with buttered bread crumbs and bake until golden. Delicious! I serve each with a lemon wedge and a small spinach salad on the side. (A glass of Champagne is also nice!) The result is a simple and luscious meal that, thanks to the portobello and spinach, somehow seems healthier and more modern. This is an excellent recipe for company, to be reserved only for people you really like!

Crab Imperial Stuffed Portobellos with Spinach Salad

Serves 4
*This recipe can easily be halved to make a romantic dinner for 2. Prepare for kisses!*

For the Crab Imperial
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for any shells or cartilage
1/2 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Sherry wine
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce (e.g., Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (e.g., Grey Poupon)
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup minced Italian flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Melted butter, about 1 tablespoon or enough to moisten the bread crumbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season breadcrumbs
Paprika, to sprinkle on top

For the Portobellos, Salad, and Serving
4 large portobello mushroom caps, 4-5 inches in diameter
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle on mushrooms
12 ounces baby spinach, tough stems removed
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lemon, cut in wedges

For the Crab Imperial
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, egg, Sherry, cayenne pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, Old Bay Seasoning, flour, and parsley until smooth. With a spatula, carefully fold in the crab meat, trying not to break up the pieces. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and melted butter. (I find the back of a spoon very efficient to help smoosh it together.)  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the Portobellos
Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place each portobello cap, stem side up, on the baking sheet and drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Top each evenly with the crab imperial mixture. Sprinkle each stuffed portobello with some of the moistened bread crumbs. (Use as much or as little as you prefer, but remember not to let it taste like sawdust!) Sprinkle the tops with paprika, to give it some color and extra flavor.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbly. Remove and let sit for a few minutes before serving. It's hot!

For the Salad and Serving
Whisk together the tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss enough of the dressing to lightly coat the spinach leaves.

Place one stuffed portobello on each of four serving plates. Divide the salad evenly next to the stuffed portobellos. Add a lemon wedge and prepare for an excellent dining experience!


  1. OMG! I'm drooling over my keyboard!

  2. Replies
    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Amy! Thanks for visiting my site! Cheers!