Crab Imperial

Cooking for others is one the the greatest joys of cooking. It combines the sense of accomplishment in the meal preparation with the warmth of sharing. Sur la Table’s mantra is that life happens around the table. No more so is that true than when friends and family make up the gathering. Crab Imperial is a favorite dish, featured in the photo as one of my favorite meals built on it – Crab Imperial in a Portobello mushroom cap, Feta slaw, roasted corn on the cob, and garlic and pecorino toast. One of the nice things about this dish, and the same is true of crab cakes, is that you can prepare the main course  ahead of time and then store it in the refrigerator – for up to a day – allowing it to chill. Chilling makes it easier to handle, and also allows the flavors to get to know each other. Get those mushroom caps out and let’s go!


1 pound (450g) lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
1/2 cup (120ml) mayonnaise
2 tablespoons (30ml) Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons (10ml) fresh juice from 1 lemon, plus grated zest of half a lemon
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning (see TIPS)
1 small shallot, finely minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (1 ounce; 30g) (see TIPS)
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, melted
Sea salt


In a medium bowl, stir together the crabmeat, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and zest, parsley, seasoning, and shallot until evenly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. At this point you can cover the mixture in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator until ready to cook – up to a day.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).

Stir the bread crumbs with melted butter until evenly coated. Season with salt. Put servings of crab on the vessel for serving, and evenly coat the top of the crab with the buttered bread crumbs. Set on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the crab mixture is heated through and the bread crumbs are golden, about 20 minutes.


Should you decide to use a Portobello mushroom cap, is simply prepared by removing any stem from the cap before filling; the mushroom will be done just right cooking at the indicated time with the crab mixture in it. You can also use ramekins, scallop shells, or any other ovenproof vessel of choice.

Old Bay seasoning is a traditional ingredient for “Maryland style” crab cakes, but it’s not mandatory. If you have a favorite seafood spice blend, that will work as well. Or be creative and make up your own.

I’ve had good luck using crisp rice crackers in lieu panko bread crumbs. The thins are remarkably crispy, so they crush very nicely. A bonus is that they make this recipe gluten-free.

Feta Slaw is quick and easy. Shred as much cabbage as you think you’ll need, put it in a bowl, toss it with a bit of salt, and let it rest for about 15-20 minutes. Drain off any water. Add some chopped green onion (tops only adds color), sprinkle with white wine vinegar, and toss. Add a generous amount of crumbled Feta, toss, and serve.

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