Hot Crab Dip

I want to be able to look back on my life as one long series of crab dinners. Tasty little weirdos. I’m never happier than when working over a crab and I think that if I had to choose the absolute best way of eating one, it would be simply steamed and served with a baguette (not a sourdough mouth-ripper, a nice soft white job, handmade by someone) and plenty of just-whisked mayonnaise. That’s it. That’s heaven right there providing, of course, you’ve remembered the chilled white wine.

Looking back, I can remember many excellent crab feasts, including a lesson in cooking Singapore chilli crab at Rick Stein’s seafood school in Padstow where a group of mates and I got the willies before putting a skewer through their heads (you must, it’s the most humane way of doing things), then plastered ourselves in the rich sauce, flinging bits of hairy pink leg through the air as we ate, our fingers stained orange.

There was a stir fry of small mud crabs in Borneo, one of my first meals there, and it was so good we started eating and immediately ordered another plate. There was something feral about it, something fusty and borderline illegal. Brilliant.

I remember two marvellous crab sandwiches in San Diego, both sparkly-fresh, rammed with crab meat, the bread so soft it felt like coming home. Sandwich nirvana. I get dreamy-eyed for steamed crabs eaten overlooking the beach in Jersey, for endless crab buffets in Sweden and for cracked beauts on ice in London’s Wright Bros. (can’t beat the Spitalfields branch in my opinion – they also do an insanely good chocolate mousse).

Anyway, the weird thing is, there are hardly any crab recipes on this blog, WTAF?! So, I’ve decided to rectify that once and for all. Over the next couple of months, I’m gonna be hitting that crab hard. This is the first instalment my friends and I swear it’s one of the best Crabby Things you can make. Hot crab dip is very much a Southern American thang but my version is a sort of mashup – a bit British, a bit Maryland with the Old Bay Seasoning, a bit deep South with the cream cheese. It’s rich, but I’ve used less cheese than other recipes and ramped up the crab flavour by using the brown meat, which literally no other person seems to do, ever. Mishtake.

Hot Crab Dip Recipe

1 banana shallot (or 2 smaller ones), finely diced
2 large cloves of garlic
50g butter
1 dressed crab
140g cream cheese
1 lemon
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (you can buy it on Amazon)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
50g breadcrumbs
Parsley, to garnish (optional)
Bread, to serve (or crackers)

Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3

Melt the butter and gently soften the shallots and garlic for a minute or two. Whisk in the cream cheese. Remove from the heat and add the crab (white and brown meat), the Old Bay and cayenne and the juice of 1/2-1 whole lemon (I needed all of it in the end). Mix in the breadcrumbs. Taste and add some pepper (I used white) and salt if you need it, but you probably won’t since the main ingredient of Old Bay is celery salt.

Transfer to an oven proof dish and bake for 10-15 mins or until warmed all the way through. Garnish with parsley, if using and serve with bread or crackers. SO GOOD.