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Potted Crab

Potted Crab.  Not one of those dishes that I typically bring out for guests, in fact, I’ve never ever made it before yesterday. The season finale of Downton Abbey inspired me to try my hand at some more English fare.  My friends and are hooked on the show, so we all decided to gather to watch the Christmas special, which we just got to see today.   Instead of trying to pull together a massive dinner that might have been served in the dining room of the great house, we opted for a few sweet and savory nibbles instead…and a couple of bottles of something with bubbles, as it was the holiday season after all.

I’m not sure if this dish is completely typical of the period, but preserving food in fat is not an uncommon cooking method.  Duck confit, rillettes, and potted crab all fit in this category.  It allows the food to be stored longer and also stretches out the portions.  I like to take some of the fat and spread a thin layer of it on toast or bread and then slather the food on top of it.  It is super indulgent, but a little bit packs a big flavor punch.  I can’t eat it all the time, but some days it is the perfect lunch or teatime snack or even just an excuse to invite friends over to watch a little telly.

Potted Crab with Toast

Prep Time: 1 hour (with cleaning the crab)

Serving Size: about 6 ramekins (as a cocktail appetizer, one ramekin will feed multiple people)


8 oz. unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted and clarified (see below)

1 c. Jumbo Lump Blue Crab Meat (not backfin)

1 c. Snow Crab Meat

1/2 tsp. Allspice, freshly ground

1/4 tsp. Salt

1/8 tsp. White Pepper, freshly ground

1/2 tsp. Lemon Juice, fresh

Toasted bread or crackers


Leave one Tbsp.  of the clarified butter in the saucepan with the heat turned off.  Put both sets of crabmeat into the pan.  Sprinkle salt, allspice, and pepper over the crabmeat and add the lemon juice.  Fold gently to mix everything together.

Drizzle about 1/4 tsp. (it doesn’t have to be exact) of melted butter in the bottom of each ramekin.

Spoon crabmeat mixture into ramekin.

Fill ramekin 1/2 to 2/3 the way full with the crabmeat.

Pour additional clarified butter over the crabmeat until the butter covers it.  This will be several tablespoons of butter.

In the end, there will be a thin layer of butter over the crabmeat.

Place ramekins in the refrigerator to set for several hours (2-3) or overnight.  Bring to room temperature before serving by setting them out on the counter for 30 minutes.  Serve with toasted bread and/or crackers.

Kitchen Witch Tip:

Why to clarify butter?  Clarified butter, is butter that has been melted and has had the milk solids separated from the butterfat.  Although this isn’t necessary to do in everyday cooking, clarified butter has a higher smoke point so food can be cooked in it at a higher temperature without it burning.  It can also be stored longer than regular butter and does not need to be refrigerated.  Ghee, used in Indian cooking, is the same product.  Clarified butter can also be referred to as drawn butter.

Place 8 oz. of unsalted butter in a saucepan and set over low heat.

Let the butter melt completely and froth up.

Skim off the frothy part, the foam, with a spoon or ladle and set it aside.

Once the foam has been removed, a clear, yellow liquid, the butter, without the milk solids, will be left behind.

Clarified butter will keep for months in the fridge.  The key is to store it in a tightly sealed container, as it is sensitive to picking up odors from other foods.

The foam is still usable, too, and it is good tossed with steamed vegetables, maybe even these Green Beans with Almonds (if using in that recipe, do not use the butter for sautéing, as it will burn quickly).

Buon appetito!

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