“The crayubs are comin’ in just in time for your visit, Mary Catherine,” shouted my parents’ across-the-street neighbor from his front yard as I waddled up the front porch steps clutching my overstuffed carryon.
Music to my ears.
When I met Vivian Howard in Chicago, (Did I mention I met Vivian Howard? And when talking to her, I cried. #embarassed. More on that later.) she asked how often I visited North Carolina, and I joked, “Once a year. During soft shell season.” We laughed.
Like the crabs migrating to estuaries in mid-late summer, I migrate down south to consume them. Without a doubt, crab is one of my all-time favorite foods in any way, shape, or form, and as I mentioned in my bio, *whisper* I prefer crabmeat to lobster.
Every morning, before the heat and humidity got unbearably cranked up, my mom and I ventured out to her neighbor’s pier to pull up the crab pot to check our catch of the day. We supplemented that catch with those we caught on an old-fashioned string with an attached hook and weight and bait. This routine was delightfully nostalgic for me, having grown up on the river; some of my first memories are of piers, pots, nets, and pinchers.
So what to do with all the meat?
When we’d vacation at the beach when I was a kid, there was always a night of the week when we’d go out to eat at a seafood restaurant called Captain Charlie’s in a cute coastal town called Swansboro. Along with baskets of hushpuppies adorned with gold foil wrapped pats of butter, my family always ordered the same appetizer: a ceramic boat of crab-stuffed button mushrooms. The crabmeat within was barely held together with a little egg, a pinch of breadcrumbs, and a hint of cheese, so when you bit into these, you’d only taste baked mushroom and crabmeat.
Immediately, my mind went to a meal size version using Portobello mushrooms instead of button mushrooms and a mound (yes, I said a MOUND) of crabmeat. For the filling, I used a Crab Imperial from a 1970’s cookbook of my mom’s titled “Crabbiest Recipes from Chrisfield, Maryland’s Annual Crab Cooking Contest” and brightened it up with only a few ingredients. If you’re not a fan of mushrooms, you can easily bake the Imperial in a baking dish for the same amount of time and call it good. Call it great—because it’s crabmeat, and it’s always great.
- 1 large leek, white part only, finely chopped
- 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (+ more for pan)
- 4 large potobello mushrooms
- 2 cups of crab meat, lump or backfin or both
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup diced pimentos, drained (or roasted red peppers)
- 3 Tbsp. plain bread crumbs
- 4 Tbsp. mayonaise
- ¼ cup parmesan
- 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 tsp. prepared mustard
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. melted butter
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Brush mushrooms with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and salt. Set aside.
- Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in an oven proof skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sautee until slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Beat the eggs. Add leeks, diced pimentos, bread crumbs, mayo, parmesan, 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning, mustard, lemon juice, and salt. Stir. Add the crab meat and fold gently until well-mixed, making sure not to break up the lumps of crab meat. Set aside.
- In the same oven proof skillet, coat the bottom with oil. Place mushrooms, cap side up, in the skillet and cook for about 4 minutes over medium heat. Flip and cook about 3 minutes more. Remove mushrooms from heat.
- Scoop ¼ of the crab mixture into each mushroom and evenly distribute.
- In small bowl, combine melted butter, panko, and Old Bay seasoning. Top each mushroom with a couple Tbsp. of crumbs.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops are browned and mushrooms are cooked through. Garnish with green onions.