| Photo: jmurawski/Flickr
In the mid-1970s, when my mother put "Margaret's Hot Crab Dip" in our family cookbook, the recipe seemed exciting and somewhat exotic. After all, the simple combination of crab, scallion and cream cheese was basically a reverse engineering of the kind of appetizers that upscale restaurants were serving in Maryland and Washington, D.C. at the time, and its simple-yet-spicy flavor made it a hit at parties.
However, years later, when a girlfriend took me to meet her family in South Carolina, it took all of about 10 seconds to convert me to the wonders of chilled Carolina crab dip. This was lucky, as it seemed like every restaurant carried the stuff and passed it out with every meal. My girlfriend's mother's recipe changed depending upon the day, the amount of crab on hand, and whether or not I was taking notes. What follows is a pretty close approximation of her concoction.
Get the recipe for South Carolina-style crab dip after the jump.
The woman who might have become my mother-in-law endlessly insisted that this recipe is hardly worth making if one doesn't have access to fresh crabs, preferably caught off the deck in the creek behind one's house. Respectfully, I must disagree: this tastes outstanding, even if the crabmeat comes from a can.
South Carolina-Style Crab Dip
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound lump crabmeat, crumbled (see note)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, drained
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2-3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, to taste (see note)
In large bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth. Add crumbled crabmeat, horseradish, lemon juice, cheese and Cajun seasoning to taste. Pack into ramekins or small bowls, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. Serve with sliced French bread or crackers.
Crabmeat generally comes in 6-ounce cans, which can make this recipe difficult. Since South Carolina crab dip has a far higher crab-to-cream cheese ratio than my mother's dip, I tend to be a bit flexible. If you are serving this dip to people who are lukewarm about crab, go with two cans; if they love the stuff, go with three.
Regarding Cajun seasoning, this is largely a matter of taste. Personally, my favorite is Tony Chachere's; unfortunately, Tony's isn't available in large portions of the country (including, apparently, my current home in New York). In a pinch, most brands will do (though I avoid Lawry's).