I had my first taste of ‘Crab Imperial' (or 'Crab Au Gratin' (in French)) when I visited St-Pierre & Miquelon in 1982. I have since made my own version of this recipe - which is seasoned with Chilli kelp instead of salt & cayenne pepper - more times than I care to remember, as it proves to still be a favourite amongst family and friends.
3 tbsp butter
2 shallots, minced fine
1 tender celery stalk, minced fine
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
2 tins crab meat chunks (big pieces)
2 tbsp dry sherry
Freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp (or to taste) Chilli Kelp seasoning
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
Grated cheese (gruyere or other firm cheese)
Chopped chives for garnish
Preheat oven to 200 C.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Gently fry shallot and celery until translucent.
Remove from heat and whisk in flour.
Pour in 1/2 cup of heavy cream and whisk well, return to heat and stir until thick & creamy.
Remove from heat and pour in remaining cream. Stir in sherry, crabmeat and parsley. Adjust seasoning with chilli kelp and freshly ground black pepper.
Spoon the mixture into 6 large individual shells. Garnish each dish with a sprinkle of Chilli Kelp Seasoning, grated cheese and chopped chives.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until top is browned and bubbly.
SERVE with fresh crusty bread.
Chef's tips: First let me tell you about the crabs.
It is a spectacular effect if you can get fresh crabs, cook them, patiently empty the body and claws for the meat, and clean and use the top shell to present the dish ! In St-Pierre & Miquelon they would use the snow crab which is abundant there. In New Zealand, there are several varieties of crab but the most commercially available one is the Paddle Crab.
(Refer to get the meat out of the crab to get the meat out of the crab). But whether you use the top shell or an oven proof dish to present this recipe, the end result on the taste buds will be memorable.
Chilli Kelp is a seaweed seasoning full of flavour with medium heat and an appetising red colour. The Kelp in it looks like cracked pepper and becomes soft when exposed to the moisture in food.
Kelp is an excellent salt alternative and is the best source of iodine in nature and amongst seaweeds. It tastes salty with less sodium than salt. Like all seaweed, it is also very nutritious, and an excellent source of many minerals & trace elements, especially iron and magnesium. Kelp also contains many vitamins including B12.