Sting-Ray’s Crabmeat Imperial
Cape Charles is a lovely little Chesapeake bayside seaport just a peace down the DelMarVa peninsula on Route 13 from Chincoteague, where we spend time whenever we have time to spend. Sting-Ray’s restaurant sits in an unlikely building on the northbound side of Route 13 about a mile south of SR184. It looks like a souvenier joint and gas station, which it is. But it is also a terrific pottery store, and the restaurant inside has been written up in all the southern-living-type magazines. It is a true find. But since you’re likely not to get there any time soon, I thought I’d give you a little taste of heaven from this heavenly little surprise. And thanks to my friends Lisa and Tony for reminding me just how wonderful this little dish can be. Lisa, you make it this way, and I guarantee you Tony will love it. And Tony, if you don’t love it, you need your taste buds examined.
The World’s Best Crab Imperial
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (one stick)
3 tbsp. flour
2 cups heavy cream
1 lb. jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for shell pieces
1 cup panko bread crumbs (don’t settle for just any bread crumbs. It makes a difference!)
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp. sherry
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Heat oven to 400°. Heat 5 tbsp. butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour, and cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Whisk in cream, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in crabmeat, half the bread crumbs, bell pepper, onion, half the parsley, sherry, juice, Worcestershire, half the paprika, mustard, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Divide mixture evenly among 6 shallow 6-oz. ramekins; place ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, mix remaining butter, bread crumbs, and paprika until evenly combined; sprinkle seasoned bread crumbs evenly over each ramekin. Bake until lightly browned and bubbling in the center, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve hot with toast on the side.