Recently I hosted a house warming party.
I told you before (here) about the champagne cocktail I was trying out to serve that evening. I’m very happy to say that it went down very well and my guests loved it!
I prepared some delicious food for my guests as well. Because I was serving champagne and champagne cocktails I wanted to make food that would go well with it and be equally as first-rate as my drinks. I opted for devilled crab in the shell. I had heard about this dish many times – after all, this is a great British classic from Victorian times – but I had never eaten it. It’s probably a bit risky to cook something for a party that you haven’t even tried before, but I am a brave girl and my husband is a really skilled cook so we took the risk. It turned out to be truly delicious so I have decided to share the recipe with you. For me, it’s definitely a keeper recipe to which I’ll be returning.
I used mainly Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for ‘Devilled spider crab in the shell’ from The River Cottage Fish Book with some small modifications. The final dish is a sort of warm and spicy crab pâté with breadcrumbs. It tastes wonderful, looks great – especially served in the shell – and it’s very easy to make.
If you don’t want to go through the unpleasant process of killing and picking the crab, or just to speed things up you can buy an already cooked and dressed crab in the shell. By serving it in the shell you are getting the bonus of extra flavour and an attractive serving dish. Looking at the ingredients below you may think that there are too many strong flavours, not suitable for delicate crabmeat, but actually crab is very rich and it has a hearty depth that can easily take the strong devilled spicing.
50g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for dotting on the breadcrumbs
1 large onion, finely chopped
2tbs cider vinegar
1½ tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 heaped tsp. English mustard
200 ml double cream
2 cooked medium crabs (about 1-1.5kg), brown and white meat picked out, shells cleaned. I used brawn crab but you can use any type you like.
a squeeze of lemon juice
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
2tsp cranberry jelly (addition to the original recipe)
Freshly ground black pepper
1tsp cayenne pepper, or a dash of Tabasco sauce.
Sweat the onions in butter in a pan on low heat until soft but not browned. When they are soft add the sherry, and bring to the boil to cook the alcohol off, then add the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and cook it all for a minute.
Next add the cayenne pepper or Tabasco, mustard and cream and jelly, simmer all for couple of minutes until the cream starts to thicken and take the pan off the heat. Now fold in the crabmeat, season with salt and pepper and lemon juice.
Fill the shells (or ramekins) with the crab mixture and top up with breadcrumbs and little dots of butter. Place the crabs on the baking tray and bake in a preheated oven (190°C, gas mark 5) for about 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden and the mixture is bubbling. Serve with sourdough toast and salad.
In the original recipe Hugh suggests you serve it piping hot, but I would suggest letting it cool down to lukewarm, because the sauce thickens then and the consistency of the dish becomes a lovely creamy pâté and the flavours marry better.