Welcome back, all! This week I thought it might be nice to take a little break from all the cancer-related posts and return to what I know and love – food! I have been so blessed with maintaining a healthy appetite through all of my treatment that I wanted to take advantage of it and try out another historic recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Historic Kentucky Kitchen by Deirdre Scaggs and Andrew McGraw. I first visited this delicious tome about a year ago, and I have been cooking from it with some regularity since then. I think it’s great that Scaggs and McGraw have taken a collection of authentic Kentucky recipes from history and set them up for the modern cook.
I wanted to try out something relatively simple, but still a not-everyday kind of dish. Because I am a shellfish lover, I thought the recipe for Crabmeat a la Newburg by Francis Jewell McVey would be an interesting venture. It dates from the 1920s, an era when more and more housewives were wanting to bring fancier, more “exotic” dishes into their repertoire, and I felt that Mrs. McVey did a great job of combining ease of preparation with ingredients – like crab – that wouldn’t have been on every dinner table in little landlocked Kentucky at the time. I actually already had nearly every ingredient in this recipe in the house, which makes it even more convenient, because you probably have most all of them, too. And to top it all off, the recipe doesn’t yield an enormous portion, so it’s ideal if you want to try it out first before making it a potential addition to a future dinner party.
Although this recipe is listed under Sides in the book, the authors did note that it is more of a dip than a side dish, and I agree. Both the portion size and resulting consistency of the dish make it more suited to a hot-style party dip that would be great for tailgating or holiday parties. I also want to note that this is one of those recipes where mise en place is critical; you want to have all your ingredients portioned out and close by, as the pace at which you add them can make or break the dish.
Melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir to combine. Cook for five minutes. Add the milk and sherry, stirring to make sure there are no lumps. Bring the mixture to just below a boil. Reduce the heat, add the egg yolk, crab meat, salt and pepper, and simmer over low heat for five minutes. Pour into serving dish, top with paprika and serve.
I made a few observations upon making this for the first time. First, the initial tasting of the dip made me think that the recipe calls for far too much salt (1/2 a tbsp.?!), especially given the salty nature of the crab meat. So when I make this in the future, there will definitely be a reduction in salt. And perhaps it is my modern sense of taste, but I think that this recipe could not be harmed with the addition of cheese. Just a small amount, and I think the type of cheese would make a difference – something mild and white for my taste – but it is certainly something to think about. And just for kicks, I think that topping the dip with a light coating of bread crumbs would add great color and texture to the dish as well. But as I said, that’s just me. I feel like you could make all sorts of adjustments to this recipe to suit yourself or your party guests. On a side note, I made the mistake of trying to cheat a little and just use standard crab meat in the recipe, which I paid for; try to get the claw meat that the recipe calls for. It will improve the overall texture of the dip a lot, and your guests will be happier in the end as well.
I hope this was helpful for those of you who may be looking for something a little different to serve at parties. Not that there’s anything wrong with that cream-cheese-bacon-cheddar-ball situation you’ve been coming with for years, but sometimes it’s nice to throw people a curve ball. And although the recipe is a small portion, it could easily be doubled to accommodate larger gatherings. Enjoy the recipe and have a great week!