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Crab Imperial - As Filling for Portobella Mushrooms? Sides?

Turns out that we're having last-minute Thanksgiving guests. We're all pescatarian (do not eat mammals or fowl), so I'm scrambling to come-up with something that's relatively easy to make and will be festive. Non-traditional is fine.

Guests are bringing appetizers (and wine!).

I'll make a pear and Gorgonzola salad over field greens with a light dressing for a starter.

For the main, I'm thinking about using a basic Crab Imperial recipe and then using it as a filling for Portobella mushrooms. Would I roast the mushroom caps before stuffing them? Do a dry pan saute to cook them a bit? Or bake them, stuffed, without pre-cooking?

For sides, all I can come-up with is brussel sprouts roasted with garlic. I imagine, with the richness of the crab dish, we don't want anything creamy or heavy. I can do some homemade dinner rolls, too. But I think something else should be added and I've not a clue as to what that might be. Was thinking about roasted root vegetables, but I can't reconcile those flavors with the crab. Ideas?

Dessert will be a pumpkin roll (a pumpkin sponge filled with a whipped cream cheese frosting) and maybe a trashy Kahlua cake (because it's my favorite, I've not had it for ages, and "festive" to me screams CHOCOLATE).

Many, many thanks!

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  1. You could have a small shrimp cocktail as a starter. Then have your salad and brussels along with the portobello/crab entrée.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gail

      I like the idea of including shrimp, Gail - and maybe the bitterness of the greens in the salad might offset the richness of the crab imperial?

    2. I adore crab imperial, but I'd just serve it in ramekins (as it was served in the Baltimore of my youth) rather than as a stuffing for mushroom caps, which seems a bit weird to me -- especially Portobellos, which have such a strong flavor of their own

      If you'd like to serve fish or seafood that was likely served at the Pilgrim's Thanksgiving, then I'd lean towards clams or oysters, rather than crab. In fact a stuffing using clams works quite well in mushrooms.

      2 Replies
      1. re: masha

        Unfortunately, Masha, I don't have enough blue crab to serve all of us and I'm too late to have any overnighted (it's also far too expensive for our budget). I've called around to some local fishmonger places and some do have blue crab, but I can't get to their places while they're open. So, I need to have some way of stretching the crab that we have, without adding fillers, and I was thinking of the mushrooms as being added, well, bulk.

      2. I stuff potbello caps with crab all the time. I find they come out better if you don't pre-cook them. They get a bit too soft in my opinion. It also depends on how large the caps are.

        2 Replies
        1. re: josephlapusata

          Would you recommend larger caps (which is what I was envisioning), or medium ones and with the mediums, serving several to each diner?

          1. re: ElsieDee

            I would do one larger cap per diner

        2. I stuff portobellos a lot and have learned that it is important to both scrape the gills out and roast (til about half done,) and DRAIN them ahead of time. The gills release ugly dark liquid that you don't want on the plate. You don't want any of the mushroom moisture ruining the plating, that's why I always drain and blot before filling. Then, just fill with your cooked filling, top with your topping and bake/ broil right before serving. They're nice and substantial- the make a great main.

          Roasted or sauteed green beans with almonds? Roasted broccoli? Definitely something that retains some texture since your portobellos will be a softer item.

          7 Replies
          1. re: weezieduzzit

            Yes, I second this. If you don't drain them the brown liquid is quite offputting and would certainly discolor the crab imperial a nasty shade of puke/mud brown. I usually precook the mushrooms a few minutes to help some of the liquid release then add the stuffing and only bake for a few to 10 minutes or so.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              I, um, didn't precook portobellas the first time I made a mushroom stroganoff - it was the most unappetizing color! (Tasted great, but very difficult to get past that, well, visual mess.)

            2. re: weezieduzzit

              Weezie, I will scrape (learned that one the hard way!) and roast a bit. 350 for 10 minutes or so? Do you roast them in a baking dish or on a rack, so the liquids drain away?

              Interesting that you mentioned the green beans with almonds, as that has been floating around in my mind - maybe with toasted almonds?

              1. re: ElsieDee

                I roast them on a sheet pan and just pour off the liquid. Foil is handy.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  Ah, yes, less pan scrubbing is always welcome! Thank you.

                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                    I did the same as fldhky and flipped them over on paper towels to drain- 10 min at 350 sounds good, you'll see the liquid and know. And YES to toasted almonds. :)

              2. I think a nice sauteed spinach or arugula salad would be nice. Crab imperial is kind of rich so something light to balance it.

                5 Replies
                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  Ooooohhhh ... I like the idea of sauteed spinach. Would you use garlic? Or something else? Or just straight spinach?

                  1. re: ElsieDee

                    Perhaps garlic, olive oil, shallots, maybe a dash of red pepper flakes.

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      Quick, easy, and flavorful - I think that we will be doing sauteed spinach!

                      1. re: ElsieDee

                        It's one of my favorites, so easy and always good. If you wanted to do something different you could do Swiss chard, but I love spinach.

                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                          I love spinach, too, and always forget about how simple it is to prepare!

                2. Or crab imperial stuffed shrimp

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LaLa

                    LaLa, I like how you think. That sounds absurdly decadent. (My FIL sent me the crab imperial recipe that his family uses - he also sent along a variation, which was basically crab imperial as a filling for various fish.)

                  2. A few veggie side ideas-
                    This is really a great presentation, i have done with a chimichuri sauce instead of the whipped goats cheese:

                    This shaved fennel salad would be a nice lighter side:

                    The delicata squash and harissa combo is great:

                    And i love this salad and make it often, but massage the dressing into the greens and let sit in the fridge and hour or more (up to a day) before serving:

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                      That cauliflower looks incredible, Ttrockwood; I'd been pondering cauliflower with cheese sauce, but thought it would be too rich. The chimichuri sauce wold work, though. And I'm liking the looks for the fennel salad - light on the palate and not overwhelming. Not too sure about the delicata squash, because I'm thinking that the harissa might be too much when served along with the crab, but I'm not that familiar with harissa and my memory of the intensity might be off.

                      As for that last salad, with the kale and the brussels? I'm salivating, big time!

                      1. re: ElsieDee

                        The roasted cauliflower would be great with a simple drizzle of good olive oil as well, no seperate sauce needed.

                        I skipped the harissa on the delicata dish- it was a no spicy food crowd and still a big hit

                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                          i love roasted cauliflower. trouble is the main dish is basically "white" with a brown underneath and then the cauliflower is white specked with brown. visual blah.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            With my original suggestion of the chimichuri there would have been a great bright green sauce..... Depends on what the OP decides to serve with it.

                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                              I'm thinking that the cauliflower with the chimichuri sauce will be on our Christmas table - I love the idea of the white and brown and then the bright green and the burst of flavor.

                    2. Crab Imperial sounds FABULOUS!!

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: kseiverd

                        *grinning* Completely non-traditional, but it sounds so good to me, kseiverd. Finally, a Thanksgiving main I am looking forward to.

                        1. re: ElsieDee

                          crab imperial is wonderful!

                          but i'd then skip serving cheese on anything, including your 1st course salad. what about a fennel/orange salad as the side and either shrimp cocktail or oysters to start?

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            That's a good point. Nixing the cheese altogether, and thinking about that fennel/orange salad or something of that nature (my SO isn't crazy about fennel, though, so I'm going to need to ponder this a bit).

                            I am leaning toward the shrimp cocktail as a starter - haven't had that in years and have always loved it.

                            1. re: ElsieDee

                              you could do orange, arugula, black olives and chopped almonds. personally not a fan of red onion, but thinly sliced it's nice in that salad.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                What do you recommend as a dressing?

                                1. re: ElsieDee

                                  just a simple vinaigrette, with added orange zest and plenty of black pepper.

                      2. Just wanted to say thank you to each of you for providing guidance!

                        Dinner is coming together well and we shall feast happily this evening because of your insight and suggestions.

                        If you are celebrating Thanksgiving today, may it be joyous!

                        1. Our feast was incredible!

                          Ended-up with shrimp cocktail as the starter, then the crab imperial stuffed portobella caps (which I roasted for about seven minutes before filling and baking), sauteed spinach with garlic, green beans with toasted hazelnuts, a wild rice bake with dried cranberries and toasted pecans, and dinner rolls, and went with the pumpkin cake roll and brownies (used a mix for these, I have to admit) for dessert. Everything was devoured and there were many happy faces.

                          Some notes:
                          * The aluminum foil suggestion made clean-up a breeze (and turned-out was essential, because the crab imperial was a bit more liquidy than I'd anticipated).
                          * Part of the crab recipe was in ounces and I didn't have a clean / sterile kitchen scale (I use mine for tracking weights of orphaned critters), so I had to eyeball that, which resulted in the filling being overly wet, but the flavor was perfect!
                          * The sauteed spinach was the perfect counterpoint for the richness of the crab and worked incredibly well.
                          * I have yet to figure-out how to properly remove the greased and floured waxed paper from a cake roll in one piece - ended-up getting most of it, but then had to go back with tweezers to remove the rest.

                          Y'all are wonderful and I hope that your feasts were marvelous!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: ElsieDee

                            I'm glad the spinach worked out well, your meal sounds delightful! I really do love that you use your scale for the little animals, what kind of critters are these? I have to admit I once pondered weighing my kitten on the kitchen scale then realized I could just hold him on the regular scale :) btw what was the crab imperial recipe you used?

                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              Hello fldhkybnva -

                              I posted a reply with the recipe, but it turns out that the "old family recipe" my semi-father-in-law sent was copied / pasted directly from the Old Bay website so the moderators pulled it (sorry mods!) AND they were nice enough to send me the link to the recipes (thank you!), so here's that link:


                              I used chopped fresh parsley and fresh lemon juice. The Old Bay was a bit too intense for my taste, so I'll tone that down a bit in the future. Oh, and I spaced on the paprika. In fact, I'm not certain I have paprika in the cupboard.

                              As for the critters: primarily orphaned wildlife (squirrels, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, wild rats, etc.), plus the occasional orphaned pocket pet (hamsters, mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits), and then there are the small exotics (hedgehogs, sugar gliders, and the link), and we bottle-raise feral kittens during kitten season. Oh, and I take in small animals in need of hospice care. For all of those, tracking weight is essential (to make sure they're gaining if needed, or maintaining if they're adults, and to determine medication and fluid doses).

                            2. re: ElsieDee

                              so glad it was a success!

                              have you tried baker's joy for your cakes and rolls? i resisted for years and now kick myself. great product!

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                I've never heard of it but that looks perfect! Since I have been tasked (er, "gently encouraged") to make another pumpkin roll for Christmas, I will be on the search for the Baker's Joy can next time I'm at the store. Many thanks!