A Few of My Favorite Things with Katina Holland

Happy National Crabmeat Day!  Oh my! I love most forms of seafood and crab is one of my favorites.  Growing up, whenever my family went to Muskogee, we would eat lunch at Baker’s Fish House which was just on the other side of Porter but wasn’t much of a drive from Muskogee.  They were known for their catfish and onion rings, but I always ordered the deviled crab.  The crab meat mixture was baked inside the shell of the crab.  I always ate all the crab, but asked for a to-go box so I could take the crab shells home.  The restaurant has recently closed, but I will always remember it.  

Crabs are decapod (meaning 10 footed) crustaceans (invertebrate animals that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a pair of modified appendages on each segment, and two pairs of antennae) which commonly have a very short tail that is usually hidden under the body.  Most crabs are covered in a thick exoskeleton and have a pair of claws.  They can be found in all of the oceans and some freshwater areas as well as some areas of land.   Crabs vary in size and can be as small as a dime (the Pea Crab) and about as big as 18 feet wide if measured from claw to claw (the Japanese spider crab).  Of course the body of the Japanese spider crab is not that big, it just has long legs.  If you want a big crab, look at the Tasmanian giant crab.  It has a body width of about 18 inches and can weigh up to 40 lbs.  

There are more than 6,700 known species of crab but only about 4,500 of them are true crabs.  The others are false crabs. What?!  Yep. False crabs are often called crabs based on appearance and similarity to true crabs, but false crabs have fewer legs and longer abdominal sections.  Hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs and porcelain crabs are all examples of false crabs.  

Crabs are fairly active creatures with odd behaviors.  Crabs can walk in any direction but are most commonly found scuttling sideways to get from point to point.  Crabs make noise by using their claws to beat on objects and sometimes communicate by waving the pincers.  They are aggressive towards each other and males are often found fighting over females or even hiding spots.  This being said, crabs are also known to work together to protect the family and obtain food.  Crabs are omnivores and not picky at all.  They eat primarily algae, but also munch on worms, mollusks (depending on the species), dead animals, fungi and bacteria and even other crustaceans.  

Humans eat about 1.5 million tons of crab each year.  If you want a whole crab, the Dungeness crab, blue crab and the soft shell crab are what you are likely to eat.  Soft shelled crab is often eaten shell and all.  If you are looking for crab legs, stone crab and Jonah crabs are popular.  The king crab, both blue and king varieties, are also hugely popular, but they are of the false crab varieties.  The snow crab is popular and most likely the crab legs you will find in the grocery store.  Imitation crab is what you are likely to find in the grocery store crab dishes like seafood salad, but it’s not crab meat.  This is actually made from minced fish products and formed to resemble crab.  This is extremely popular in Japan, where it originated, and in home cooking where it cuts down on the cost big time.  A 16 oz pack of imitation crab meat is $4.98 at our Walmart.  There are two cans on the shelf next to it of actual crab meat. Claw meat is $17.94 for the same 16oz and lump meat is $28.94.  Most restauranteurs, however, treat it with disdain as a poor imitation of real crabmeat.   

There are several health benefits to eating crabmeat.  According to organicfacts.net, crab contains phosphorus, copper, selenium, Vitamin B2, omega-3 fatty acids and high quality proteins.  Phosphorus is a great way to strengthen your bones and teeth thereby reducing your risks of osteoporosis.  Phosphorus is also known to help improve kidney function which helps detoxify the body.  Omega-3 is one of the ‘good’ fats that help control bad cholesterols.  In combination with the copper and selenium, omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation throughout the body.  This can help with gout and arthritis which are both associated with inflammation.  This can also help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack.  Selenium is also known to stimulate the immune system and acts as an antioxidant against chronic diseases along with the Vitamin B2.  Vitamin B2 also helps with red blood cell production and in keeping our eyes, skin and nervous system well maintained.  Copper is crucial in absorption and breaking down of the iron we need.  These all add up to an incredible cocktail of nutrients that makes crab good for our bones, mental and heart health while also detoxifying our bodies and boosting the immune system and circulation.  AND it tastes great so why shouldn’t it be part of our regular diet?

This week, I am sharing some of my favorite crab dishes. From appetizer to main course, crab is a fairly versatile meat that can be used many ways.  You can use it to stuff mushrooms or make quiche.  Make crab cakes out of it or just simply bake the crab in the shell and enjoy the unadulterated taste.  If you can’t afford the crab or don’t want to wait until a special occasion to make these recipes, feel free to substitute imitation meat in any recipe.  Make your grocery list and meet me in the kitchen this weekend for some delicious food made from some odd looking creatures!


Crab Appetizers

2 boxes mini Phyllo shells, they come in boxes of 15 shells and this will make about 30-40 depending on how full you fill the cups.  You can find these in the freezer section with the frozen pies.  

1 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened 

12oz crab meat—Crab meat at our Walmart is in the meat section closest to the produce.

2 Tbsps Miracle Whip

2 Tbsps grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup shredded Mexican blend cheese 

2 Tbsps thinly sliced green onion 

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce 

1 pinch paprika

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Line shells up on prepared baking sheet.  The cups are already cooked so you don’t have to cook them, but if you like a crunchier cup, place in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes while you mix up the filling.  Drain the crab in a colander and using your fingers, pick through it to remove any bits of shell that might remain after processing.  In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, crab, Miracle Whip, cheeses, green onions and Worcestershire sauce. Spoon mixture into cups and garnish with paprika and green onion if desired.  Bake about 10 minutes or until filling is hot.  

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com.


Crab Bisque

1 medium onion, minced

1 cup carrot, minced

2 10.5oz cans low sodium chicken broth

4 Tbsps flour

6 Tbsps unsalted sweet cream butter

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup cooking sherry or Port

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp cayenne pepper, more or less to taste

fresh chives, minced

1 lb lump crabmeat

Sauté onion and carrot in 2 Tbsps butter until soft. Set aside.  Drain the crab in a colander and using your fingers, pick through it to remove any bits of shell that might remain after processing.  In 4 quart saucepan, melt 4 Tbsps butter and add flour, whisking constantly over medium heat until roux becomes light brown (about 5 minutes). Watch it carefully, you don’t want it to burn.  Slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly to ensure mixture stays smooth.  Add onions and carrots, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add cream, sherry, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and crab and simmer an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through.  You can also add more broth or heavy cream as desired to give it the thickness you desire.  Garnish with fresh minced chives if desired.

Recipe adapted from geniuskitchen.com.


Baked Crab Cakes

8oz crabmeat

1 cup panko crumbs

2 Tbsps Miracle Whip

2 Tbsps freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 green onions, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with nonstick spray.  Drain the crab in a colander and using your fingers, pick through it to remove any bits of shell that might remain after processing.  Transfer the crab to a mixing bowl, then add the panko crumbs, Miracle Whip, lemon juice and green onion and combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the egg and combine thoroughly.  Using your hands, gently firm the mixture into a patty and place it on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake the crab cakes for 10 minutes, then remove them from the oven and gently turn them over. Continue baking for an additional 10 minutes or until golden and crisp on the outside.  Serve immediately.

Recipe from mygourmetconnection.com.


Boiled Crab Legs

2 Tbsps seafood seasoning

Salt, to taste

4 lb frozen king crab legs, thawed King crab is the most popular for crab leg eating due to the size of the legs.  Snow crab are also popular and less expensive, but you aren’t going to get as much meat as you will from King legs.  Snow crab legs are all you will find at our Walmart.  If you want King legs, go to Reasor’s.  

Fill large stockpot or Dutch oven half full with water; add seafood seasoning and salt. Heat to boiling.  Add crab legs. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or just until heated. Remove with tongs to serving platter. Serve warm with melted butter if desired.

Recipe adapted from bettycrocker.com.


Crab Wonton Cups

12 wonton wrappers or Phyllo dough shells 

8oz pkg cream cheese, softened

¼ cup sour cream

12oz  lump crab, drained

2 green onions thinly sliced

¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray muffin pan with cooking spray if using wonton wrappers or line a baking sheet with parchment paper if using Phyllo cups.  Place one wonton wrapper in each muffin cup and bake 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Remove from oven and cool slightly.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, 1 sliced green onion, Worcestershire sauce. Stir well.  Place crab in a small food processor and process until finely chopped. Stir chopped crab into cream cheese mixture.  Spoon filling into baked wonton shells; bake for an additional 8-12 minutes. Top with sliced green onions. Serve with sweet & sour or sweet chili sauce if desired.

Recipe adapted from lemontreedwelling.com.


Crab Mac & Cheese

6 Tbsps unsalted sweet cream butter

½ medium onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1 pound coarsely chopped cooked crabmeat

4 cups (1 pound) mixed grated cheeses, such as Parmesan, cheddar, Swiss, and fontina. Use whatever cheeses you prefer.

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large pot of boiling water, cook macaroni 2 minutes less than al dente. Drain; rinse with cold water. Set aside.  While pasta is cooking, melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Transfer 2 Tbsps melted butter to a medium bowl, and reserve. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add milk; whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until sauce has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Remove pan from heat. Fold in seafood, macaroni, and cheese; transfer to a shallow 4-quart baking dish. To bowl with reserved melted butter, add breadcrumbs and Creole seasoning.  Toss to combine and scatter over macaroni mixture. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet to catch anything that might spill over. Bake until topping is golden and sauce is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe from emerils.com.


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