What a stupid name for a recipe! Unstuffed stuffed crabs? Well, I named it as such because once you make the stuffing you can use it either stuffed in real crab shells or crab-shaped ramekins, or flattened into patties and butter-fried, or rolled into boulets and oven baked, or packed into patty shells to use as appetizers or hors d’oeuvres. To my taste, the best stuffing is made not from crabs left over from a crab boil, but from processed lump, white, or claw crabmeat right from the cooler at seafood market. That done, uniformly mix together the ingredients and proceed with your selected preparation.
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 bunch green onions (including the green part), finely chopped
1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tsp. seafood seasoning
4 Tbsp. finely minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
Dash Garlic Hot Sauce, or to taste
2 cups prepared crab or shrimp stock (or bottled clam juice)
¾ cup light cream (Half-N-Half) as needed
1/2 loaf stale French bread, cubed (about 3 cups)
1 cup coarse homemade French bread crumbs
1 lb. lump, white, or claw crabmeat, picked for shells
1 cup toasted “mayonnaise breadcrumbs”
First, heat your oven to 400°F.
Then place 1-1/2 sticks of the butter in a heavy 12-inch skillet and heat it to “sizzling,” but do not let it burn. When the butter is ready, drop in the onions and the celery and sauté them until they fully wilt and clear. At this point, immediately add the green onions, garlic, salt and pepper, and seafood seasoning and continue to cook over a medium heat until all the vegetables are tender. Then add the parsley and cook it into the mixture for exactly one minute. Finally, season the ingredients to taste with the Garlic Hot Sauce (just a little, though—don’t overdo it here).
In the meantime, pour the stock and light cream into a 3-quart saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then add both the bread cubes and the breadcrumbs and mix them together thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Then set the mixture aside to cool.
Now you’re ready to put in the crabmeat.
Take 2-1/2 to 3 cups of the moist (not wet or runny!) bread mixture and place in a large bowl, roughly breaking it up with your fingers. Then a little at a time, begin adding in the crabmeat and combining it with the bread—I suggest you use your hands to do this. I also suggest that if you decide to use jumbo lump crabmeat you blend it into the bread very gently. Remember, you pay a premium price for “lump,” so don't shred it up—leave some lumps!
To Do Stuffed Crab Shells or Ramekins: Pack each crab shell or ramekin with a generous, heaping amount of the stuffing and top them with the mayonnaise crumbs. Of course, if you want to achieve maximum richness you can always drizzle a little melted butter over each stuffed crab just before you slide ‘em into the oven! Remember you still have a half-stick left over.
Finally, place the crabs on a shallow sheet pan and bake them for about 10-15 minutes. Then to lightly toast and brown the crumb topping, run them under the broiler for about 45-60 seconds. . .but be careful: you don’t want the crumbs to burn! Keep a close eye on the broiling process!
To Do Crabmeat Patties: Take a generous handful of the stuffing and flatten it out into individual patties. Then top the patties with the mayonnaise crumbs and lightly pack them in.
Finally, take a 12” non-stick skillet, place it on a medium fire, melt down in the skillet as much of the leftover butter as needed to pan-fry the patties (you may have to do several batches so that you don’t overcrowd the skillet), and pan-fry the patties on both sides until beautifully golden brown and crispy. Turn them over gently so as not to break them up.
To Do The Oven Baked Boulets: Take a generous handful of the stuffing and roll it out into a “boulet” or croquette. Then when they’re all rolled, gently dredge them in the mayonnaise crumbs and set them—not touching—on a non-stick sheet pan. Of course, if you want to achieve maximum richness you can always drizzle a little melted butter over each boulet once they’re on the baking sheet. Remember you still have that half-stick left over.
Finally, place the boulets into the oven and bake them for about 10-15 minutes. Then to lightly toast and brown the crumb topping, run them under the broiler for about 45-60 seconds. . .but be careful: you don’t want the crumbs to burn! Keep a close eye on the broiling process!
To Do The Stuffed Pastry Shells: First pre-bake the pastry shells according to package directions. Then after they cool, take small handfuls of the stuffing, roll them around into small balls, and push them down into the individual patty shells, completely filling them in rounded heaps. Then sprinkle each one with the mayonnaise crumbs, place the pastries on a shallow sheet pan, and bake them at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or just enough to reheat the stuffing. Then to lightly toast and brown the crumb topping, run them under the broiler element for about 45-60 seconds. . .but be careful: you don’t want the crumbs to burn! Keep a close eye on the broiling process!
Regardless of which preparation you choose, I recommend that you plan on serving at least two stuffed crabs or pan-fried patties or oven-baked boulets or pastries per person. A chilled bowl of sliced heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh-picked basil, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a splash of Balsamic vinegar, makes for the perfect complementary dish.
Mayonnaise bread crumbs are made when a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise (not the low-fat stuff!) are whisked in a mixing bowl with the toasted breadcrumbs. Of course, if you’d prefer, you can use melted butter instead of mayonnaise to coat the crumbs but the mayonnaise gives them a richer flavor.
This recipe does have a secret methodology. As you’ve probably noticed, the trick is to “moisten” the bread you use to make the stuffing with stock or bottled clam juice. Oh, you could use chicken stock as a substitute if you wanted to, but the finished stuffing just wouldn’t taste like the real deal. By the way, you can easily make your own homemade crab stock by simmering in a pot of water about a half-dozen or so gumbo crabs that you’ll find at your supermarket. Take my word for it—when it comes to making stuffed crabs, it’s worth the extra effort.
To add the coup de grace, a little spritz of fresh lemon juice over the crab stuffing rounds it all out and tops it all off!