Feelin' Crabby

Monday, August 29, 2011

   When I was applying for residency I had to take into consideration where in the country I wanted to live. It was my chance to make the big move and I knew I was tired of the bitter cold northeast. Somehow, I felt that my calling must lie in the ethereal south. Southern living has always had a strangely compelling aura about it for me. I've read lots of books over the years set in the south (The Prince of Tides being perhaps one of the most memorable); they all transported me to a place where I imagined balmy nights, loud crickets and other mysterious insects singing resoundingly in the dark. I pictured towering old elms with tendrils of Spanish moss tickling the air beneath their boughs.
   My new home hasn't disappointed me. Night time down here is probably my favorite, which surprised me since sunny days at the beach were part of what drew me here. I love the oddly bright light the night sky takes on here, the stars causing leaves to sparkle and flowers, bright during the day, to take on a strange darkness that still manages to be colorful. The crickets and other bugs I can't even begin to imagine put on such a cacophony of noise it's like being surrounded by an orchestral celebration. I love it.
   But it still was hard to leave the place I called home as a child. During the time I spent interviewing for residency positions, considering new towns and places and people, one of my favorite memories is when my dad braved ice slicked roads to drive me to Virginia for my last interview of the season.
   We arrived when it was already dark, the town seeming rather shuttered and asleep, although it was only just past the dinner hour. Because it was dark I had no concept of what lay around us; my poor geographic sense further handicapped by the tunnel vision night creates.

   We ate at the hotel restaurant, enjoying tall, chilly glasses of beer and thick steaks. My favorite part of the meal, however, was the appetizer- a dip composed of crab and other delicious, creamy things. Unctuous and yet still all about the crab, spread thick on chewy bread, it was comforting and complex at once. Even though I was in a strange state in a strange town with no way of really getting my bearings, I felt happy and relaxed, reassured that no matter where my life takes me I can always sit down for good food and conversation with my dad.
   This recipe is for him, my (too small) thank you for always watching my back, even when my antics are taking me further from home.

Crabby Creamy Dip
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 12 ounces lump crab meat, fresh or canned (i use canned)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on your preferred spice level
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
   Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Have at ready a shallow baking dish, approximately 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch deep.
   Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sautee until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add the crab meat (allow their juice to cling, they need to have moisture with them and not be completely drained). Reserve crab meat liquid. Stir in lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, cream cheese, mayonnaise, 3/4 cup parmesan cheese and spices until creamy and fully incorporated. If needed, add a little of the reserved liquid to make the dip the consistency cake batter might be.
   Pour into the baking dish, sprinkle the top with remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned at the top.
   Serve over slices of baguette (my favorite!), pita triangles or crackers.

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