A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 04, 2019
Crab Imperial

"Crab Imperial” is a classic dish from Baltimore, Maryland. Serious Eats printed “How to Make Crab Imperial, the Maryland Crab Cake’s Wild Cousin” by Daniel Gritzer on August 16, 2017:

“I’d describe it (Crab Imperial—ed.) as a hot crab dip, a crab casserole, or crab gratin: blue crabmeat tossed with a generous dose of mayonnaise; seasoned with Old Bay, onion or shallots, mustard, and lemon; and topped with buttery bread crumbs that turn golden in the oven. In essence, it takes all the things that would turn a crab cake into an overseasoned, dense, and pasty travesty, and finds a way to make the most of them.”

A recipe for “Crabs Imperial” was published in The Sun (Baltimore, MD) on June 17, 1915; the recipe included chopped parsley, black pepper, cayenne pepper and bread crumbs. A recipe for “Baltimore Crab Imperial” printed in the Boston (MA) Herald on December 19, 1927, contained just crabmeat, mayonnaise, salt and egg. Two very different “Deviled Crab Imperial” recipes were published in the Washington (DC) Post on November 6, 1951. Forms of both recipes are used today, but mayonnaise—instead of cream—is usually added.

Another “imperial” dish is “Imperial Chicken.”


7 June 1915, The Sun (Baltimore, MD), “Frocks and Frills,” pg. 7, col. 2:
NOT IMPERIAL GERMANY, BUT CRABS IMPERIAL.
CRABS imperial have one thing in common with Emperor William’s Imperial Army—nothing has been found to beat them up at the present time. Just you purchase a pound of crab flakes tomorrow morning at Lexington Market, prepare them according to the following recipe, serve them, hot and toothsome, to the King of your Heart and—well, you can just ask of that man anything at all, and he will give it to you!

CRABS IMPERIAL.
1 tablespoonful of flour.
1 tablespoonful of butter.
1/2 pint milk or cream.
1 tablespoonful chopped parsley.
1 teaspoonful salt.
1/4 teaspoonful black pepper.
1/4 teaspoonful cayenne pepper.
1 pound crab flakes.
10 crab shells.
A sprinkling of buttered bread crumbs.
To prepare this delicious dish mix the tablespoonful of flour and the one of butter together. Put them in a small pot on the stove and cream them together. Into this stir 1/2 pint milk or cream, also 1 tablespoonful of chopped parsley, 1 teaspoonful of salt, 1/4 teaspoonful of black pepper, 1/4 teaspoonful of cayenne pepper. Stir into this 1 pound of crab flakes and fill the 10 crab shells. Top off with buttered bread crumbs; put into a very hot oven and bake.

19 December 1927, Boston (MA) Herald, pg. 19, col. 2:
BALTIMORE CRAB IMPERIAL
Fresh crabmeat
Mayonnaise
Salt, butter
Egg
Take fresh crabmeat in sufficient quantity to serve desired number, blend with mayonnaise and a little salt. Butter individual casseroles and press the mixture firmly therein, brush over with beaten egg. Bake in hot oven about 10 minutes, until well browned. (This was sent in by Mrs. Corless of Winchester.)

18 October 1932, Boston (MA) Herald, “New England Kitchen” broadcast by Marjorie Mills, pg. 8, col. 4:
Baltimore Crab Imperial in which crab meat mixed with mayonnaise is arranged in a buttered casserole brushed with egg is another quick thought.

20 June 1934, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 12, col. 4 ad:
SUMMER SUGGESTIONS
Soft Shell Crabs, Deviled Crabs, Crab Imperial. Clams, Beer, Liquor, Mixed Drinks
(Hall’s Restaurant and Garden, 7th and K Streets, S.W.—ed.)

16 October 1934, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 15, col. 6 ad:
CRAB IMPERIAL
This popular seafood delicacy is a Parrot specialty. Nowhere is it served with the delicious seasoning and freshness that Parrot cuisine achieves.
(The Parrot, 20th and R Streets, N.W.—ed.)

6 November 1951, Washington (DC) Post, “Ask Anne: Crab Imperial Recipes Seem Hard to Find But Here Are Two of Them,” pg. 2B, cols. 6-7:
This dish is often praised by gourmets but seldom mentioned by cook-book editors. We canvassed about two dozen of the best, finally came up with two recipes which are quite different.

From the “Congressional Cook Book” comes this version, contributed by Mrs. Dow Harter, wife of a former Representative.

DEVILED CRAB IMPERIAL
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound mushrooms, sauted
3 tablespoons minced pimientos
2 tablespoons minced green pepper
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
dash of cayenne
1 pound crab meat
Make a white sauce of first four ingredients. Mix crab meat with seasonings. Add white sauce. Fill well-buttered shells with the mixture. Top off with a bit of crumbs and butter. Place under broiler until a nice brown.

Here’s an “Imperial” recipe adapted from the recently published “Southern Cook Book” by Marion Brown.

DEVILED IMPERIAL CRAB
1 pound lump crab meat
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Lea and Perrins sauce
1 cup coarsely rolled cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon paprika
1/8 pound butter
4 crab shells
Combine crab meat, mayonnaise and sauce. Mound into shells, Combine paprika with crumbs; pat onto shells. Pour on melted butter just before baking. Place shells in shallow pan with 1/4 inch water. Bake 12-15 minutes in 350-400 degree oven.

Google Books
The Florida Story
By Jack Kofoed
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
1960
Pg. 68:
People drive from as far as Gainesville for her turtle chowder, hearts-of-palm salad, turtle steak, and crab imperial.

Google Books
Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Food Encyclopedia
By Craig Claiborne
New York, NY: Times Books
1985
Pg. 122:
Crab imperial is one of the classic American creations. Generally, it is made by blending crab meat with mayonnaise that is then packed into crab shells and baked. Some cooks prepare it by combining crab meat and a white sauce.

Serious Eats
August 16, 2017
How to Make Crab Imperial, the Maryland Crab Cake’s Wild Cousin
DANIEL GRITZER
Delightfully creamy and rich, crab imperial is as delicious as a Maryland crab cake, but a lot less fussy to make.
(...)
I’d describe it as a hot crab dip, a crab casserole, or crab gratin: blue crabmeat tossed with a generous dose of mayonnaise; seasoned with Old Bay, onion or shallots, mustard, and lemon; and topped with buttery bread crumbs that turn golden in the oven. In essence, it takes all the things that would turn a crab cake into an overseasoned, dense, and pasty travesty, and finds a way to make the most of them.

Instead of acting as a leaden binder, the bread crumbs are toasty and crisp on top. Instead of making an overly wet and gloppy crab cake, the mayo makes a delightfully wet and gloppy dip (I mean that in the best way possible). Instead of overpowering the flavor of the sweet and tender hunks of lump crabmeat in a crab cake, the more generous spicing of crab imperial is a riot for the mouth, which means the dish doesn’t require such prime lumps of meat.

Ask Chef Dennis
MARYLAND JUMBO LUMP CRAB IMPERIAL
December 14, 2018 by Chef Dennis Littley
(...)
WHAT IS CRAB IMPERIAL?
Crab Imperial is a dish made up of crabmeat mixed with an imperial sauce then baked to a golden perfection.

WHAT IS AN IMPERIAL SAUCE?
An Imperial Sauce is a mixture of mayonnaise, egg yolks and seasonings, usually including Old Bay. It’s really easy to make and can be used with every type of crabmeat including imitation crabmeat.

Food Network
Crab Imperial
Ingredients:
1/4 large green pepper, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound Chesapeake Bay crabmeat
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon mustard
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Crab boil seasoning
(...)
COMMENTS
Guest
from a native Marylander on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.....we love crab....never, never, never put green, red, yellow peppers in cakes or imperial......crab has a subtle, sweet, succulent flavor..and the peppers totally overpower the natural deliciousness...only need mayo, s&p, Old Bay, egg, dry mustard, lemon...and you’re in heaven.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Friday, January 04, 2019 • Permalink