Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Warm Welcome - Crab and Lemon Dip

Whew! Finally, a few moments to add some actual content to this blog! I have been storing things in the back of my mind for days, but haven't been able to take time off from writing my term papers.

In this busy, busy context, it seems fitting that the first recipe I will post was not tested or realized by myself. The truth is, I am not alone in my kitchen: I share it (sometimes against my will) with Laurent, my wonderful boyfriend. I tend to monopolize the cookware, but when I am too busy, Laurent is always there to pick up the slack and make sure we both eat right.

This past winter, there have been two evenings a week when I came home quite late, due to night classes. On such nights, it has been a real comfort to come home to a warm apartment, filled with the wonderful smells of a piping hot meal - and even a set table!

Last week, Laurent had decided to make me an entire meal of appetizers. We do this every now and then, because it allows us to sample a bunch of different little morsels, without having to worry about saving room for the main course. I'd just bought him a couple of cookbooks themed around appetizers, and he was keen to try out some of the recipes.

First came a batch of homemade crostini, topped with a bell pepper spread which Laurent's father (an amazing cook, whom you will read about very often on this blog) had given us. He often makes this kind of spread, but alters the ingredients according to whatever is in his fridge. I actually have no idea what he put in this one! All I can tell you is, it went great with parmesan and olives.

Next came some sausage bites, a kind of variation on pigs-in-a-blanket. Apparently, the dough didn't come together as it should have, hence the weird shapes. But they were really the quintessential comfort food! Laurent had used mild Italian sausages, which added flavour, giving the bites a salty spiciness.

But the highlight of the evening was the above taboulé-looking thing, which was actually a warm crab dip. It was delicious, especially with the combination of tarragon and crab. I also enjoyed the contrast between the creamy interior and the crunchy topping - even though Laurent says that next time, he will make the crust thinner, to allow it to get crispier in the oven.

We tried it with celery, but the taste overpowered the dip's, so we ended up enjoying it with crostini. Pita bread would have been another good option. Anyways, here's the recipe. There are many ingredients, but it's very simple to make. You can add more lemon juice if you prefer; I would even put in some zest, as the citrus flavour wasn't that noticeable.

Laurent had divided the recipe by half. Even so, there was a lot leftover, and it was equally good served cold the next day. Definitely a keeper!

Crab and lemon dip
(From Apéro, from the Marabout collection)

Makes 600g (22 oz)

80g (a little over 1/3 cup) butter

2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 shallots, minced
1 tsp ground mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
125ml (1/2 cup) sour cream
150g (5.5 oz) cream cheese
60g (1/2 cup) grated cheddar
350g (12.5 oz) canned crabmeat, drained
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped
40g (1/3 cup) breadcrumbs
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).

Melt half the butter in a pan, cook the garlic and shallots 2-3 minutes, until tender. Add the mustard seeds, Cayenne pepper and sour cream. Simmer, then gradually beat in the cream cheese. Add the grated cheddar and simmer 1-2 minutes until smooth. Remove from heat and add the crab meat, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and 2 tsp tarragon. Season with salt and pepper, stir and transfer in a small ovenproof ramequin.

Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan, stir in the breadcrumbs, parsley, and remaining tarragon. Pour on top of the crab mixture and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until golden on top. Serve warm.

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