Deviled Crab

Crabs for sale at the Maine Avenue Fish Market...

Crabs for sale at the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Imagine a world without the blue crab.  This is in fact a very real possibility and is clearly the work of the devil.”


Deviled “Doublers”

Christopher Gobbett



For the Soft Shells:

6 Soft Shell Crabs, Cleaned                                                        

Flour for Dredging

Egg Wash For Dredging                                                                

Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Salt And Pepper, to Taste                                                           

Oil, For Frying


For the Deviled Crab:

1 Lb. Jumbo Lump Crab Meat, Picked Clean

1 Teaspoon Mustard                                                                     

½ Cup Mayonnaise

1 ½ Tb. Old Bay Seasoning                                                          

½ Cup Panko Bread Crumbs

2 Eggs                                                                                                   

1 Tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

½ Tsp. Hot Sauce                                                                             

¼ Tsp. Cayenne Pepper

¼ Cup Diced Onion; Caramelized                                            

¼ Cup Diced Green Bell Pepper, Sautéed


For Topping:

½  Cup Panko Bread Crumbs                                                      

2 Oz. Olive Oil


1:            Dredge the soft shells first in flour, then egg wash and then seasoned bread crumbs. 

2:            Pick the crabmeat for shells.  Cook Onions and peppers, and combine with mayonnaise, peppers and seasonings.  Gently toss in crab meat and Panko bread crumbs. 

3:            Gently fry the soft shells until the breading is brown and set, do not cook long, crabs should still be uncooked inside. 

4:            Flip soft shells on their back and place crab mixture in mounds on top.  Toss bread crumbs and oil together and top the crab mixture with it.

5:            Place in 400 degree oven and finish baking for 10 minutes until soft shell is cooked and crab mixture is set.  Crumb topping should be golden brown.                           

                The idea behind this recipe is that the soft shell crab is topped with the crabmeat, albeit deviled, riding on top.  I wanted to replicate the natural patterns of the crab’s life cycle in a dish.  The soft shell crab is upside down and the deviled “Jimmy” meat is placed on top.  This is the way that the crabs are when they are mating and called “doublers”.    

This dish is clearly an outgrowth of the crab cake, the Northern crab cake in particular.  The cream sauce base is added to keep the crab moist during the extended cooking time needed to brown the bread crumbs on top and cook the crabmeat through the shell or ramekin.  Several ingredients have been added to this dish over the years to modify the texture as well as stretch the crabmeat and take greater advantage of a dwindling resource that has greatly increased in price. 

Soft shells are graded by size.

                Soft shell crabs run through several stages before and during the shedding process.  The signs must be read accurately or the shells will harden too much to be served as soft shells and a valuable harvest will diminish in value significantly.  The last segment of the swimmer paddle tells a careful observer the amount of time until the shedding.  A white sign indicates it will be one or two weeks.  A pink sign indicates that it will occur in three to six days.  A red sign also known as rank means that the shedding will occur in one to three days. 

                The sizes of soft shell crabs also play a factor in the price of the crabs both for the waterman as well as the consumer.  A medium is 3.5 to 4 inches in width from one end of the shell to the other.  Hotels are 4 – 4.5 inches, Primes are 4.5 to 5 inches, jumbos are 5 to 5.5 inches and whales or slabs are 5.5 inches or larger.  It is illegal to harvest crabs smaller than 3.5 inches in width. 

 The softies are classified as the following:


Medium: 2.5 to 4 Inches

Hotel:  4 to 4.5 Inch

Prime: 4.5 to 5 Inches

Jumbo: 5 to 5.5 Inches

Whales: over 5.5 Inches

Biological Classification of the Blue Crab

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda (jointed appendages)

Class – Crustacea (having a crust or shell)

Order – Decapoda (ten – legged)

Family – Portunidae (swimming crabs)

Genus – Callinectes (beautiful swimmer)

Species – Sapidus (tasty or savory)

                The female crab only mates once in its life after her final molt.  The single mating results in the fertilization of millions of eggs.  Crabs can be harvested all along the eastern seaboard of the Atlantic ocean from Canada all the way down to the tip of South America.

                Up to 95 percent of the nation’s catch of blue crabs comes from the Chesapeake region.  Anywhere from 150 to 240 bushels were removed from the Bay during this time.  Late summer and autumn are the best time to catch blue crabs as the Sooks have gone through their first molting and the Jimmies are “heavy” and fully grown at this time. 

                There is another level of the crab development that is one of the undesirable stages of the crab’s growth.  After a molt, a crabs shell hardens, but they have not yet filled out or fattened up.  The Post – Buckram crab is referred to as “snowballs” or “white bellies” and do not contain a lot of meat, only the most shady or undesirable crabber will try to pass off these crabs as “jimmies,” if you find yourself with these crabs presented before you, it is a good indication not to do business with that crabber or crab house in the future. 

                Crabs are primarily caught using crab pots which were first developed and used during the 1920’s which revolutionized the crabbing industry and lessoned the amount of effort required to harvest crabs in the Chesapeake.  It also made it more expensive to crab.  The crab pots even the ones made by the crabber’s themselves still required a higher investment to start.  The most common design was patented in Virginia in 1938 by B.F. Lewis and the same basic design is still used to this day.  There are two basic designs used and both are off the same patent.  The first one has two compartments; the top chamber has the bait and lures the crab inside through a one way tunnel.  There is a small hole in the side to allow small crabs to leave and retain the large ones.  The other one is the same, but only has one compartment which allows the crabs to continue to eat the bait inside until they are pulled up and because of this it has to be checked more often. 

                95% of all wire used to make crab pots are manufactured in Peoria, Illinois by Keystone steel and wire company.  In February and March trainloads of one hundred and fifty foot rolls of wire mesh line the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  Each roll weighs 45 pounds and makes about 5 crab pots.  The galvanized wire is a huge investment for crabbers each year as the harvest of blue crabs becomes more precarious each year. 

                The harvesting of crabs became a great deal more efficient with the development of the crab pot in the 1930’s after ten years of experimenting.  It took a while to develop since the blue crab has excellent vision and will not be lured into anything that it cannot see its way out of.  Crab pots are made of thin 18 gauge wire as a standard, thinner wire would fair even better, but the corrosive nature of the Bay waters would soon render them useless. 

                By 1920, the crab grounds of New Jersey had given out to overfishing making the Chesapeake region the dominant source of crab meat for the entire country.  Until the advent of refrigeration and fast transport, crabs were limited to sale on the eastern seaboard, but trains with refrigerated capacity soon found their way to the Eastern Shore and became the foundation of the Crisfield packing market, making Crisfield, the “Seafood Capitol of the World” for several decades. 

                The process of pasteurization of crab meat was patented in 1951 by Clifford Byrd or Byrd Seafood.  This process allowed for the distribution of Chesapeake crabmeat throughout the world.  Smith Island crabmeat was renowned throughout the country for its high quality and lack of cartilage and shell pieces. 

                The process is basically heating the crabmeat quickly to 185 degrees and then immersing it in ice water for an extended period of time to almost freezing.  The high temperature kills almost all bacteria within the crabmeat as well as any accumulated through the picking process, and the long immersion in Ice water and low temperatures retard the growth of any other bacteria. 

Nutritional Value of the Blue Crab:


87 Total Calories

14 Calories From Fat

16% Calories From Fat

Total Fat 1.5 Grams

Cholesterol 85 MG

Sodium 237 MG


                This dish called deviled crab originated out of the Eastern or land lovers crab cake concept and now has taken on many forms.  In its original conception, it was served inside the back shell of the crab, but in the south in places such as North and South Carolina and the Creole cooking styles of New Orleans the mixture is made in croquettes and deep fried.   It can also be baked as a casserole and served at buffets, but I like the traditional presentation of the stuffed crabs shells which can be bought and cleaned, or even ceramic shells shaped like the back of a crab. 

This dish can be made with either male or female crabs, the difference can be determined easily by the apron on the bottom as well as the fact that the females “paint their nails,” which means the tips of the claws are edged with red as opposed to the males which are blue until cooked.  The aprons are different shapes in that the female has a wide “V’ shape while the males develop a straight inverted “T” on theirs. 

                The introduction of ice made it possible to supply and transport fresh crabmeat and soft shell crabs all over the eastern seaboard.  Deviled crab was so popular a dish that 100 shells were added with every gallon of picked crab meat.  The packers employed small black children called “knockers”, to clean and dry the shells.  Ceramic and plastic shells are now more commonly used in the dish today.  


The Evolution:


Devilled Crab[1]



12 Hard Shell Crabs (These Make Enough Meat                

1 Egg Yolk Beaten

To fill 9 Shells), or 4 Cups Cooked Crab Meat                     

2 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce or

1 Cup Thick White Sauce, Made with Fish or                      

Harvey Sauce

Chicken Stock                                                                                   

¼ Teaspoon Ground Mace

1 Teaspoon Minced Parsley                                                       

½ Teaspoon Onion Juice

1 Cup Buttered Crumbs


                Boil the cleaned crabs.  Remove the shells, clean and trim these.  Flake the meat.  Stir the egg yolk into the hot white sauce, add the flaked crab meat, parsley, Worcestershire sauce and mace.  Fill the crab shells rounding full, cover with the buttered crumbs and bake them in a moderate oven (375 degrees F.) till brown.  (about 10 minutes.)  Or bake the mixture in ramekins.  Nine servings.

                Editor’s Variations: Use sherry or Madeira instead of Worcestershire sauce; or finely minced mushrooms, cooked first in a little butter make a good addition to this mixture; Garnish each baked, filled shell with a curled anchovy, or a slice of stuffed olive, or a ring of pimento. 

It is an important distinction made here, that 12 crabs will only fill about 9 shells.  Keep this in mind when making the filling for the dish.  1 Lb. of crab meat will only make about six shells worth of filling.  The sizes of the shells you use also make a difference, but in most cases, unless you clean the crabs yourself, you will only be able to get a hold of larger Jimmy’s.  These are the preferred steaming crab in the region and are likely all that will be available for purchase.

The recipe above is more of a northern style crab cake but still contains the high seasoning associated with classical colonial recipes.  Allow this mixture to set up before cooking it to allow the starch to soak into the filling.  Otherwise, the crab mixture may leak all over in the oven.

Devilled Crab[2]



To the flesh of one dozen crabs boiled fifteen minutes and picked free from shells, add:

3 Tablespoonfuls of Stale Bread Crumbs

½ Wine Glass of cream

Yolks of 3 Eggs

A Little Chopped Parsley

1 Tablespoonful of Butter

Salt and Pepper to Taste

                Put them in the shell and bake in a quick oven. – Mrs. M. E. L. W.


The egg ratio is a little thick on this recipe and can be reduced a bit for modern taste, but feel free to follow this recipe for a more classical or traditional taste.

Devilled Crabs[3]



After the crabs are boiled, pick them fine and add one third the quantity of crab, in cracker dust or bread crumbs, mustard, red and black pepper, salt, and butter.  Return them to the top shell and bake, or bake in pan. – Mrs. D.

This is the first indication of the classic “deviled” seasoning in the dish.  Mustard is considered to be the seasoning commonly associated with anything that is deviled.  It has a spice that sneaks up on the palette rather than overwhelming it.  It is sneaky that way, just like the devil.

Deviled Crabs[4]



                One pint of crab meat; two hard boiled eggs, two tablespoonfuls of melted butter, three tablespoonful vinegar, pepper, salt, and mustard to taste, one raw egg, well beaten.  Drain the liquor from the crabs, cream the yolks of the eggs with the butter, add seasoning, then stir in the raw egg, then the chopped whites of the eggs and mix well with the crab meat.  Wash the shells and fill them lightly, put grated bread crumbs over the top and pour over each two tablespoonfuls of melted butter.  Place in a pan and bake until light brown. 


Hard boiled eggs are often served on the side of the traditional crab feast.  In fact, deviled eggs are commonly served, so it is of little coincidence that the two dishes would be brought together here and eggs would be incorporated into the dish.  It adds an interesting textural note and if you use it, it can also bring the heat level down from an over spiced mix without adding additional bread crumbs.

Deviled Crabs[5]



1 Cup Crabmeat                                                                               

1 Cup Bread Crumbs

½ Cup Milk                                                                                        

Yolks of 2 Hard Cooked Eggs, Grated

1/8 Tsp. Dry Mustard                                                                     

1 Tsp. Salt

1/8 Tsp. Cayenne                                                                            

¼ Cup Melted Butter


                Mix crabmeat with crumbs (which have been moistened with milk), and egg yolks.  Add mustard, salt, cayenne and butter.  Mix well.  Fill timbales or small dishes with mixture; stir crumbs lightly on top, dot with butter.  Brown quickly in very hot oven (500 degrees), being careful not to burn.  Serves 4. 

Dry mustard is an excellent addition to the recipe, since it adds the spice without adding additional liquid to the mixture which then needs to be contained by egg or filler.  It is also a great idea for using in crab cakes as well.

Devilled Crabs[6]



One dozen fresh crabs are required for this recipe, but it may also be made using canned crabmeat and baked in a casserole instead of in the crab shells.


                                2 Cups Crabmeat

¼ Teaspoon Mustard

¼ teaspoon Nutmeg

¼ Teaspoon Mace

2 Cloves

1 Tablespoon Melted Butter

1 Egg, Separated

Salt and Pepper

½ Cup Wine or Sherry Flavoring

Cracker Crumbs


                Add the seasonings to the crabmeat, stir in the melted butter and the beaten egg yolk.  Add cooking sherry and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Fold in the stiffly beaten egg white.  Fill in the crab backs or put in a buttered baking dish, sprinkle with cracker crumbs and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F.) for half an hour. 

Mrs. E. H. Sparkman

“The word receipt’s been handed down

For generations.  It’s renown

Is well established.  Recipe

For scholarship to pendantry

Has now evolved.  However, we

Can use them interchangeably.”


“What is the difference between a Chinaman and a Charlestonian?  A Chinaman lives on rice and worships his ancestors, but a Charlestonian lives off his ancestors and worships rice.”

                Charleston cuisine is a combination of international influence and local prejudices.  Southern cuisine is heavily influenced by what we consider to be poor man’s food.  It has developed over the centuries in times of struggle.  Its roots go back to the days of slavery when large numbers of slaves needed to be fed cheaply but nutritiously.  This culinary ethic has maintained itself throughout the years and is a very important part of the philosophy behind Mid – Atlantic cuisine.  Watermen along the eastern shore make a low wage considered by the national standard to be poverty levels, but food is still plentiful for those who are not afraid to go out and get it.  Great food can be gotten in just about any place in the Mid – Atlantic if you know where to look and how to prepare it. 


Imperial Deviled Crab[7]



                Simmer the flakes of two crabs and half a chopped onion in butter, season with salt and cayenne pepper, add two cups of thick cream sauce a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoonful of English mustard, a little chopped chives, bring to a boil and bind with the yolks of two eggs.  Add a little green pepper chopped fine.  Fill crab shells, spread a little French mustard and a sprinkle of bread crumbs over the top.  Place a small piece of butter on each and bake in the oven until brown.  Serve with lemon. – Hotel Rennert, Baltimore

                The Hotel Rennert, was a historical landmark in the city of Baltimore and considered to be one of its finest restaurants.  It was located at the corner of Saratoga and Liberty Street and was opened to the public in 1885. 

                The hotel was built by Robert Rennert and soon became the center of Maryland Gastronomy.  The hotel saw its highest point as the host of the Democratic National Convention in 1912.  Its most famous patron was newspaper icon H.L. Mencken who started out his career and after becoming an established journalist he still frequently lunched there. At 11.25 on April 6, 1933, Mencken was served the first legal beer after the repeal of Prohibition.  He loudly proclaimed to the hotel patrons, “Here it goes,” and after consuming the beer in one gulp, slapped the stein on the bar and proclaimed “Pretty good.  Not bad at all.”  Maryland was unique in this aspect as it was the only state which never passed any state enforcement of prohibition, considering it an infringement on state rights, it proudly proclaimed itself to be a” wet” state.

                The hotel served local Maryland cuisine and was touted in a review as having of “a la” on the menu.  The hotel was closed in 1939 and torn down in 1941, only a fence of steel and brick outline the long gone hotel, it is now a parking lot. 

                A Baltimore Sun editorial eulogized Rennert upon his death in 1898: “But there are some men who are missed; it may not be for years and it may not last forever, but they are missed.  Among men of this sort is the man who knows how to keep a hotel.  Such a man was Robert Rennert.  His life was devoted to that particular avocation.  He was one of the rare men in the world who knew how to keep a hotel.  Peace to his ashes.”


Deviled Crabs[8]



                1 Lb. Crab meat, 12 clean crab shells, ½ teaspoonful black pepper, ¼ teaspoonful red pepper, 1 teaspoonful salt, 1 tablespoonful butter, 1 cup milk, 1 tablespoonful flour.  Put into a saucepan one tablespoonful of butter and melt.  Add to it, stirring smoothly, one tablespoonful of flour and one cup of milk.  Cook until it thickens.  Add crab meat and seasoning and blend together.  Fill crab shells, dip the tops of the filled shells in beaten egg, then cracker meal, and brown in a hot oven.  – Mrs. I. P. Horsey, Somerset County


                This recipe shows the Northern style of making a crab cake transformed into a deviled crab dish.  It uses the white sauce or Béchamel as a binding agent.  Not as much binder is required for this dish as it is more along the lines of a casserole then a crab cake. 


Deviled Crabs[9]



                1 cup crab meat, ½ cup milk, 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ½ green pepper chopped fine, 1 cup bread crumbs, yolks of two raw eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ cup melted butter.  Mix crab meat with crumbs (which have been moistened with milk) and egg yolks.  Add mustard, salt, cayenne pepper, green peppers and butter.  Mix well.  Fill crab shells with mixture, sift crumbs lightly on top, dot with butter.  Brown quickly in very hot oven, being careful they do not burn.  Crab shells should be washed and scrubbed I very hot water before being stuffed. – Mr. H. R. Bowen, Chesapeake Seafood Company, Baltimore.

One of Mr. Stieff’s favorite things was to find a recipe with pinholes in it.  His book describes how many old cooks used to pin the recipe to their shirts and jackets so they could easily refer to them while keeping their hands free.  Hence the insult of having something pinned to your lapel is a sign that you are forgetful or inexperienced.

Deviled Crabs[10]



Eggs 3                                                                                                   

Salt ½ Tsp.

Top Milk 4 Tbsp.                                                                              

Red Pepper, To Taste

Butter 6 Tbsp. Melted                                                                  

Meat from One Dozen Boiled Crabs

Bread Crumbs ½ Cup


                Blend beaten egg yolks, cream and butter and add to meat, add crumbs and seasonings and beat the egg whites.  Put in shells and bake 20 minutes in quick oven.


–              Clara Kregar


Snow Hill, Worchester County

                This recipe is old fashioned in that it calls for the crabs in a whole sense.  This is however the best way to eat them.  The delicacy of this dish relies on one chief characteristic: Do NOT OVERCOOK THE CRABMEAT!  It is important in the deviled crab recipe to not pack the shells overfull as it will take longer to cook in the oven and will overcook the top layer of the crabmeat.  This will cause the crab to become stringy and undesirable.   The flavor you get from using the whole crabs and picking them yourself will be far greater than using the pasteurized fresh crab meat; you can also add the yellow fat from the crabs to enhance the flavor of the mixture. 

                The blue crab will cook in pressurized steam (250 degrees) in about twelve minutes.  In boiling water it will not take more than 15 minutes.  The recipe for a good crab boil is as follows:


Crab Boil for 1 Dozen Crabs (Jimmies)


1 Cup Vinegar

1 Cup Beer

3 Tbsp. Salt

4 Tbsp. J.O. Crab Spice

2 Lemons, Cut in Slices

6 Bay Leaves

2 Cloves Mashed Garlic

Freshly Ground Pepper

Water to Cover All 12 Crabs Completely


Bring all Ingredients to a boil, add crabs and boil about 15 minutes. 

Deviled Crab Imperial[11]



2 Tablespoons Butter                                                                    

2 Tablespoons Minced Green Pepper

2 Tablespoons Flour                                                                      

1 Tablespoon Minced Parsley

1 Cup Cream                                                                                     

1 Tablespoon Dry Mustard

1 Teaspoon Salt                                                                               

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

½ Lb. Mushrooms, Sautéed                                                        

Dash of Cayenne

3 Tablespoons Minced Pimento                                                              

1 Lb. Crab Meat


                Make a sauce of the first four ingredients.  Mix crab meat with seasonings.  Add white sauce, fill well buttered shells with the mixture.  Top with buttered crumbs and place under broiler until a nice brown.


– Isabelle M. Kennedy


                This is a classic example of the modern deviled crab in that it incorporates many vegetable garnishes into the dish.  Originally this dish was mainly a highly seasoned crab cake with the addition of mustard that was stuffed back into the top shell and baked, now you see the modern exercise of using other ingredients as filler to stretch the crabmeat, this practice has been more common since the price of crabmeat has steadily risen since the stocks of blue crabs have shrunk and the global demand have increased.  Demand has far outpaced sustainable levels of supply.

Deviled Crab[12]



2 Cups Medium White Sauce                                                    

1 tsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley

2 Cups Crab Meat                                                                           

2 TBS. Grated Onion

1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce                                                      

1 ½ Cups Fresh Bread Crumbs

1 ½ tsp. Dry Mustard                                                                     

Grated Cheese


                Add crab meat to freshly made white sauce and add spices.  Pour into battered casserole or individual shells.  Sprinkle with crumbs and cheese and dot with butter.  Place in 375 degree oven to reheat and brown crumbs.


                This recipe is unique due to the inclusion of cheese.  This makes more of a gratin then a deviled crab.  It is often looked down upon and of course outright forbidden in Italian tradition to mix shellfish with cheese.  The combination can lead to an off flavor similar to the taste of spoiled shellfish and cause the diner no small amount of alarm.  Cheese is a preserved product and one is usually trying to highlight freshness when dealing with shellfish, so the two ingredients are usually not paired together. 


Savory Deviled Crab[13]



1 Pound Crabmeat, Picked and Flaked                                  

1 Egg, Beaten

2 eggs, Hard Cooked and Sliced                                                               

2 Tablespoons India Relish

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce                                    

4 Tablespoons Bacon Drippings

½ Cup Mayonnaise                                                                        

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 Cup Cream                                                                                     

Cornflake Crumbs

½ Large Onion, Chopped                                                             


½ Green Pepper, Chopped                                                         

Cleaned Crab Shells or Ramekins


                Mix all ingredients together, except crumbs and butter.  Fill crab shells or individual ramekins.  Sprinkle top with crumbs and dot with butter.  Bake in a  425 degree oven until brown.  Serve hot.  Serves 6.

Mrs. Charles W. Moore (Jane)

Talbot County Unit (Easton)

                Here we see the decline of the crab’s shells being used as a presentation for this dish.  This recipe calls for ramekins to be used.  This is not an uncommon thing as crab shells are hard to come by unless you buy whole crabs and pick your own crab meat. 

                This recipe calls for several unusual ingredients such as Indian relish and bacon drippings added to the dish.  This will give the dish a spicier and more international taste then the traditional dish and shows a growing acceptance of non indigenous foods and tastes in the region.  

Deviled Crab Newport[14]



1 Pound Fresh Lump Crabmeat                                                 

1 Tablespoon Mustard with Horseradish

5 slices Toasted Bread                                                                  

3 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

¾ Cup Butter                                                                                    

Dash of Hot Pepper Sauce

1 Medium – Sized Onion, Finely Chopped                          

Salt to Taste

½ Cup Finely Chopped Celery


                Remove membrane and cartilage from crabmeat and discard.  Moisten toast slightly, and break into small pieces.  Melt butter in a skillet; add onion and celery.  Sauté until transparent.  Remove from heat and place in a large bowl with all ingredients.  Mix lightly.  Shape mixture into crab cakes; place cakes in a lightly greased casserole or into crab shells.  Bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes.  Serve hot.


Lois M. James                                                                                   

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

Newport County Unit (Middletown)                                     



Preparation Time: 25 Minutes


This recipe has more of a southern root in that it incorporates horseradish which is more in keeping with a Cajun influence then a Mid – Atlantic one.

Deviled Crab Tart[15]



Sheets Puff Pastry

2 Cloves Garlic, Crushed

1 Pound Cream Cheese, Softened

4 Tablespoons Mustard

1 Pound

Fresh Crab Meat

1 Egg Beaten      

Onion, Chopped

2 Tablespoons Mixed Herbs

½ Cup Flour

3 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Dill

 Salt and Pepper


                Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

                Sauté onions and garlic in a small amount of oil.  Remove from heat and add herbs. 

                Mix together cream cheese, mustard, crab, flour and onion mixture until well blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

                Place 1 sheet of puff pastry into a greased 10 inch tart pan.  Add crab mixture.  Place puff pastry sheet on top.  Crimp together with fork.  Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with some mixed herbs and dill.  Cut a few slits into the top of the puff pastry.  Bake in an oven at 400 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes until well risen and golden brown. 

                Tea rooms have a long history in the Chesapeake region.  Many of the first restaurants fell into three categories.  On was the tavern, the next is the lodges and finally there is the tea house.  This is a long standing British tradition which still holds sway here in the Chesapeake region. 

                The above recipe is an appetizer form of the recipe and ideal for tea parties.  It uses puff pastry as a base instead of the usual crab shell.


Deviled Crab[16]



1 Can (11 Oz.) Low Fat Cream of Celery Soup                     

1 ¼ to 1 ½ Cups Fresh Crab Meat

1 Tbsp. Onion, Chopped                                                              

2 Tbsp. Green Pepper, Chopped

3 Tbsp. 2% Milk                                                                                               

1 Tsp. Lemon Juice

1 Tsp. Worcestershire Sauce                                                     

½ Tsp. Mustard

¼ Tsp. Hot Pepper Sauce                                                             

2 to 3 Tbsp. Bread Crumbs



                Sift crab meat with fingertips to remove any shell fragments. 

                Gently mix all ingredients, except paprika and bread crumbs, in a bowl.  Transfer to an ungreased baking dish (or individual small dishes).  Sprinkle with bread crumbs, then shake paprika on top of the mixture.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 350 until edges are bubbling and the top is lightly browned.

                Makes 4 Small servings

                Note: Double the recipe to make enough to use this dish as a main course.

This recipe is has not been overlooked by the modern convenience food trend.  This calls for a can of condensed soup instead of the traditional white sauce that is used in this recipe. 

Jim Villas’s Savannah Deviled Crab Crusted with Pecans[17]



1 Pound Crabmeat, Lump Preferred, Picked Over            

1 Large Stalk Celery, Finely Chopped

For Shells and Cartilage                                                                               

1 Medium  – Sized Green Bell Pepper, Seeded

4 Scallions, (White and Green Parts) Finely Chopped    

¼ Cup Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley Leaves                      

½ Teaspoon Dry Mustard

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to Taste  

Tabasco Sauce to Taste

¼ Cup Heavy Cream                                                                      

½ Cup (1 Stick) Unsalted Butter, Melted

1 ½ Cups Roughly Crushed Soda Crackers                            

½ Cup Finely Chopped Pecans


                1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f.  Butter a 1 ½ quart casserole.

                2: In a large mixing bowl, gently combine the crabmeat, celery, bell pepper, scallions, parsley, mustard, salt and pepper.  Add the Tabasco, cream, half the butter, and the crackers and stir gently to combine.

                3: scrape the mixture into a prepared casserole or into Cleaned crab shells, sprinkle the pecans over the top, and drizzle with the remaining butter.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Serve hot. 


                This is a traditional recipe with the addition of chopped pecans used to add crunch to the topping of the crab eat.  This would definitely be considered a southern influence, but be careful if you make this recipe as the nuts will burn easily.  Make sure there is a lot of butter placed on the top of the crumb mixture. 




[1] Fifty years in a Maryland Kitchen: 430 authentic regional recipes, Ms. B.C. Howard, 1873 J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

[2] Housekeeping in Old Virginia: Marion Cabell Tyree, John P. Morton and Company Louisville, KY. 1879

[3] Housekeeping in Old Virginia: Marion Cabell Tyree, John P. Morton and Company Louisville, KY. 1879

[4] Aunt Caroline’s Dixieland Recipes by Emma & William McKinney: Laird & Lee, Inc. Publishers 1922

[5] Fish and Seafood Recipes: covering the entire industry, published by the cooking department of U.S. Fisheries association: 1927

[6] Two Hundred Years of Charleston Cooking Recipes Gathered by Blanche S. Rhett & edited by Lettie Guy: University of South Carolina Press 1976

[7]Eat, drink & be merry in Maryland: Frederick Philip Stieff, john Hopkins University Press 1998

[8] Eat, drink & be merry in Maryland: Frederick Philip Stieff, john Hopkins University Press 1998

[9] Eat, drink & be merry in Maryland: Frederick Philip Stieff, john Hopkins University Press 1998

[10] Maryland Cooking Compiled by the Maryland Home Economics Association 1948

[11] Cookbook by The Women’s Community Club of Beltsville, Maryland: Printed by the Explorers and Scouts of Boy Scout Troop No. 238 of Beltsville, Maryland 1953

[12] The Country School Cookbook: The Parent’s association of the Country School Easton, Maryland 1980

[13] Maryland’s Flavor: From the Allegheny Mountains to the Sands of the Eastern Shore: American Cancer Society, Maryland Division, Inc.; Favorite Recipes Press A division of Great American Opportunities, Inc.  June 1981

[14] Cook’s Tour: Favorite Rhode Island Recipes by The American Cancer Society Rhode Island Division: Wimmer Brothers Fine Printing and Litography 1982

[15] The Great Tea Rooms of America by Bruce Richardson: Benjamin Press 2002

[16] Blue Crabs: Catch ‘em, Cook ‘em, Eat ‘em by Peter Meyer: Avian – Cetacean Press 2003

[17] Crazy for Crabs by Fred Thompson:  Harvard Common Press 2004

About midatlanticcooking

Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region for over 20 years. Painter, writer and traveler.
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