Sep 16, 2009

Grand Isle Revisited: Part 2

Nothing is more decadent and sinful to me than Crab Au Gratin. It’s what I’ll most likely order at a nice seafood restaurant. Like I mentioned last week...when we went crabbing on Grand Isle I was hoping we’d get enough crabs to bring some home so I could make this.

Something I noticed...Crab Au Gratin wasn't on the menu at one of the nicer restaurants on Grand Isle.   What's up with that?

Crab may be my favorite type of subtle and sweet. But you know me, I can’t stop there. Add a rich, velvety white sauce and lots of cheese. I prefer it glammed up and sassy.

I tried to find out a little history on the dish, but came up empty.  Found a ton of info on the term au gratin, but I wanted something on crab specifically.  Au gratin is a French technique of topping a dish with cheese.  The dish is heated in an oven or placed under a broiler until the cheese browns.  Potatoes are probably the most popular.  Most foodies know this term.  But when and where did people start using crab in this type of preparation?  I can't answer that one.  All I know is Crab Au Gratin is found all over South Louisiana.  And that, my friends, is how it should be.  This dish should be found all over everywhere.

Most people here call the dish Crabmeat Au Gratin.  And that bugs me somewhat.  Is the meat part of the title really necessary?  I mean it's a given that I'm not going to be using the crab shells in this, ya know?

The recipe I use comes pretty much straight from Talk About Good, my favorite Cajun cookbook.  I've changed a few minor things like seasonings, tempering the egg (because I'm paranoid), and broiling the dish.

I usually make this family-style in one casserole dish.  It could also be made in individual ramekins if you want to be all fancy and stuff.  By the way, it makes a great dip/spread for crackers or toasted bread too.  Just puttin' that one out there.

Crab Au Gratin
from Talk About Good (with a few changes)

1 large onion, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
½ lb butter
4 Tbsp flour
1 large AND 1 small can evaporated milk
2-3 green onions, chopped
seasonings to taste (salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, lemon or lemon pepper)
2 large egg yolks
12-14 oz grated mild cheddar, grated (reserve some for top)
lbs cooked crab, picked of shells

Melt butter and saute onions and celery until soft. Sprinkle in flour and stir to blend. Slowly pour in evaporated milk, stirring to prevent lumps.  Bring just to a boil then cut off the heat.  Add the green onions and seasonings.

Add yolks to a bowl and temper with some of the sauce by adding a couple of spoonfuls of sauce to the egg.  Add a few more spoons of sauce to the egg yolks.  Add the yolk mixture to the pot and stir.  Add grated cheese slowly, stirring well until it has melted. Fold in crab. Pour into a large casserole dish. Sprinkle reserved cheese on top. Bake at 350 until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes.  Place under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the cheese.

Mise en place for Crab Au Gratin.  (I halved the recipe)

As with almost everything I make, saute the onions, garlic, and celery in butter until softened.  Save the green onions for later so they still have some life in 'em

Now it's time to start making a sauce...a cheese sauce.  Oh, yeah.  That got your attention.  Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and stir in.  The flour will help thicken the sauce.  Next, add the evaporated milk slowly so you don't get lumps.  Stir while adding the milk.  Whew.  It's hard to add the milk, stir, and take pictures at the same time.  Bring just to a boil to get the thickening power of the flour working. 
Some recipes use plain ol' everyday milk, but they lack something.  Some recipes use heavy cream and that's too much.  I think evaporated milk is the happy medium.

This is when I add my green onions and whatever seasonings I want.  I usually add black pepper and Cajun seasoning.  Lemon or lemon pepper would be good too.  Cut off the heat.

The next step is tricky.  The original recipe says to add in 2 large egg yolks.  I always worry that the egg will scramble, so I like to temper it.  Add the yolks to a bowl (I used the measuring cup from the milk--why dirty something else?) and add a spoon or two of the sauce.  Stir, add a few more spoons of sauce, then dump it all back into the pot and stir some more.
Or just take your chances and add the egg directly to the pot.  If your egg scrambles, call it a breakfast casserole.

Next comes the cheese. Remove pot from the burner and sprinkle in the cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted.  Then get the crab in there.  But don't stir it all up like a fool, no.  Delicate touch. 
The darker pieces of crab...that's from the claws.  My favorite part.  

Pour the mixture into a casserole dish then top with more cheese.  Normally I use sharp cheddar in most recipes.  But since crab does have a delicate flavor, I use mild for this.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until bubbly and the cheese has melted...about 30 minutes.
At this point I’m giddy. All the hard work of picking the boiled crabs, all the pain in my hunched back, all the rough, cut up’s all about to be worth it. Hope I got all the shells out.

But, ya know what? I'm not gonna stop there. Let's put it under the broiler.  Ooooweee, now that's what I'm talkin 'bout! 

I'm about to go hurt myself, ya'll!

1 comment:

  1. I can't even begin to think about how rich this is; I just want a big plate full:) We had a friend who owned a marina at Grand Isle for years. Great place. I would love for you to join me for Crock Pot Wednesday at Come check it out.


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