Crabmeat St. Francis

Crabmeat St. Francis

This was one of the best dishes created by the late Chef Warren LeRuth at his spectacular restaurant. He told me once that the thing he missed most about not having LeRuth’s open anymore was that he couldn’t grab one of these at moment’s notice.

Crabmeat St. Francis is also special in that it’s one of the few regular menu items from LeRuth’s for which the chef ever published the recipe. At that, it only came out a few years ago, in the little cookbook they do every year at the Chef’s Charity for Children.

(Another reason to go!)
I find this recipe fascinating in that it uses ingredients and techniques generally left behind by latter-dat gourmet chefs. Despite that, this is a dish that knows few peers.

Sauce ingredients:
1/4 stick margarine
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 inner ribs celery, bottom 2 inches only, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves (dried)
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Pinch cayenne
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Accent
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 Tablespoon flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3 Tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon spicy paprika
1 lb. lump crabmeat
1/2 stick margarine, melted

  1. Heat the margarine in a saucepan until it bubbles. Add all the sauce ingredients except the milk and flour, and saute until the vegetables are well browned and sticking a little bit to the pan.

Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes.

  1. After 15 minutes, add the evaporated milk and 3/4 cup of water to the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring lightly.

  2. While the boil is coming up, whisk the flour into 3 oz. of water. After the pan comes to a boil, stir the flour-water mixture slowly into the other ingredients. Simmer for three minutes, until the sauce is thick.

  3. Spoon the sauce into a pan and refrigerate overnight.

  4. To complete the dish, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and paprika together.

  5. Put about 3 oz. crabmeat into a scallop shell or small au gratin dish. Top with 5 oz. of the chilled sauce, then sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture. Bake at 425 degrees until the crumbs brown and the sides of the dish begin to bubble–20-25 minutes.

  6. Remove from the oven and top with 1 teaspoon. melted margarine. Serve very hot.

Serves 4-6.

Tom Fitzmorris, for Inside New Orleans