One of the easiest ways to elevate a dish is to top it with crabmeat. In New Orleans, many dishes that are topped with crabmeat are given the name Pontchartrain, after the lake on the edge of the city where Blue Crabs are plentiful. But crabmeat is also a great main ingredient.

You can go into almost any grocery store and find crabmeat. I am not talking about the imitation crabmeat which you find in sealed plastic. This product actually contains no crab at all. It is fish with a little crab flavoring added.

Crabmeat is usually found in round containers made out of hard plastic or in a can. Most places offer two types of crabmeat, Lump and Claw. Lump crabmeat is found in the body and is white. Claw meat is obviously from the claws and is darker. However, the claw meat has more of a crab flavor than the lump. Claw meat is used is dishes where the flavor is more important than the appearance, as in Stuffed Crabs. Both of these are interchangeable in any recipe.

The third type of crabmeat is the Jumbo Lump. This is the most expensive crabmeat and are found in finer restaurants. There are 2 of these Jumbo Lumps in each crab. While it taste the same as regular lump crabmeat, it makes for a more appealing visual. Many Crab Cakes are made with Jumbo Lumps and not much else.

The most important step in all crabmeat recipes is the cleaning of the crabmeat. You must pick thru your crabmeat for any shells that may have made it thru the packaging process. The last thing you want is to have a guest take a bite of your dish and get a small piece of shell.

The following recipe is one of my earlier blog post. I had posted a recipe for a hot crawfish dip. One of my readers asked if I had a hot crab dip recipe. She had said that she already had one, but thought others may be interestedqww. I had been posting my recipes for 3 months and realized that people are actually reading what I was posting. It was around that time that I started thinking about writing a cookbook.

This dip is great for any gathering. Cocktail parties, Pot Luck dinners, family gatherings are just a few opportunities to make this dish. It also works well with a sit down dinner. You can serve individual portions as an appetizer.

Hot Crab Dip

16 ounces Cream Cheese
8 ounces Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 pound Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1/2 cup Half and Half
Creole Seasoning to taste

Combine cheeses, Worcestershire sauce, green onions, parsley and half and half in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat until the dip reaches desired consistency. Add crabmeat and creole seasoning. Cook for 3 minutes. Serve with crackers, bagel chips, tortilla chips or anything you can dip with.

Here is one of my top three Crabmeat recipes. It is also one of the most versatile. You can use any cheese that you like in preparing this dish, although Bleu Cheese would probably overpower the crabmeat flavor. A traditional Crabmeat au Gratin tends to be on the bland side, allowing the crabmeat to shine. However, you may add whatever herbs and spices you like.

Crabmeat au Gratin

2 Egg Yolks
12 ounces Heavy Cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) Butter
1 large Onion, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1/4 cup Flour
1/2 cup Mild Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
1 pound Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400℉.

Lightly spray a 9×9 inch baking pan with butter flavored pan spray. In a medium bowl, whip together egg yolks and heavy cream. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic about 3 minutes. Season with salt, white pepper and the creole seasoning. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Stirring occasionally, until very tender. Mix the flour into the saucepan, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Mix in egg yolk mixture. Stir in the mild Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses until melted. Remove from heat and fold in crabmeat. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and sharp Cheddar cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until bubbling lightly.

There is no need to be afraid to cook with crabmeat. It is almost impossible to over cook. Your guest will be amazed by your use of this exotic ingredient.