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Jun 28, 2016
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WINE WITH…Crab Imperial with Lime Crème

It’s time to revisit this delicious American classic, which was an especially popular dish during the Mad Men era. Of course, Crab Imperial meant different things to different people even then. It was usually a super-rich, creamy creation spooned into scallop shells, ramekins or a casserole dish, sprinkled with parmesan and baked until brown and bubbly. Sometimes the mixture was stuffed into a fileted fish or mushroom halves. We prefer a somewhat scaled down version than the original. It’s less creamy, less cheesy, and with more emphasis on the succulent crabmeat itself. And we leave out the diced bell pepper, a common ingredient but one that we find too aggressive. Our Crab Imperial is more like exceptionally elegant crab cakes made all the more delicious with a topping of lime crème.

Crab Imperial

Fills 6-8 individual ramekins

If possible, make the lime crème up to an hour or two ahead of time.

For the Crab:

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 pound fresh lump crabmeat
salt and pepper
neutral vegetable oil for greasing the ramekins

For the Crème:

3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons unflavored yogurt
1 fresh lime

To Make the Crab:

Preheat oven to 350°.
Melt the butter in a small skillet and add the onion. Cook slowly over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and tender, but do not let them brown. Transfer them to a bowl and stir in the thyme, parsley, mustard, cayenne, bread crumbs, Worcestershire and egg yolks. When the ingredients are thoroughly combined. fold in the crabmeat. Divide the mixture among well-greased ramekins and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture is just set. Unmold onto a platter or individual serving plates and garnish with the lime crème.

To Make the Lime Crème:

Combine the sour cream and yogurt. Using a microplane zester, grate the rind of half of the lime. Stir it into the sour cream mixture and squeeze in the juice of the half lime. Slice the rest of the lime into garnish for the crab.

* * *

We were surprised that the wines (all white) which showed best with this dish were not especially rich or lush but rather firmly structured, with evident acidity, so bright and lively. Perhaps it was the lime crème, or the fact that our version of imperial is not as rich as many others. But the best wines with this recipe quite clearly are those that taste vivaciously refreshing. They provide a delightful counterpoint to the dish.

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com


Approx. Price


Esk Valley, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2015

(Imported by Ste Michelle Wine Estates)


Bright and lively, filled with citrus (grapefruit) flavor, this wine avoids the excesses (too much acid or too overtly green) that mar some Kiwi Sauvignons. Instead, it tastes complete and complex, and complemented the lime crème on the crab perfectly.

Louis Jadot, Chablis (France) 2014

(Imported by Kobrand Corporation)


Elegant, tasting more like a premier cru than a village Chablis, this wine has surprising depth on the palate. That gave it the weight to hold its own with the crab.

Stefano Massone, Gavi (Italy) “Masera” 2014

(Imported by deGrazia Imports)


Lean and supple, but evidencing summer fruit flavors and a long finish, this Gavi seemed to lighten the dish. Giving it an added touch of freshness.

Simonsig, Stellenbosch (South Africa) Chenin Blanc 2015

(Imported by Quintessential LLC)


Tasting of golden apples and ripe pears, this beautifully crafted Chenin added extra flavor elements to the match, complementing but not echoing the dish.

Stoller Family Estate, Dundee Hills (Oregon) Chardonnay 2014


The one varietally-labeled Chardonnay we are recommending, this medium-weight wine shows only a hint of oak, so never becomes heavy on the palate. It tastes primarily of ripe autumn fruit, so much like the Chenin Blanc, adds new elements to the match.