Recipes and Stories

20 December 2018: Savannah Chafing Dish Crab, or Hot Crab Dip

December 20, 2018

Tags: Savannah Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Chafing Dish Crab, Crab, Crabmeat, Holiday Entertaining

Old-Fashioned Savannah Chafing Dish Crab, or Hot Crab Dip
Once upon a time, an elegant fixture on the buffet table of any Savannah holiday party worth attending was a hot crab spread or dip that was simply called “Chafing Dish Crab.” It was of course named for the way it used to be served—warm but not bubbling hot from a glistening, polished silver chafing dish.

Dipped into toast cups (slices of bread pressed into a mini-muffin tin, brushed with butter, and baked to a golden brown in a 300 degree oven), or spread on small, crisp toast points or butter crackers, it was rich and luxurious, yet subtle and tasted reassuringly of traditions that were worth respecting.

Nowadays it’s deemed by some to be a bit too homey and old-fashioned to satisfy a really trendy “gourmet” (whatever that is). But to dismiss it as dated would be a sad mistake, because it’s a delicious, dead-sure crowd-pleaser—yes, even with those trendy types.

Best of all, it’s very simple to make: Just stir it together, slap it into a casserole, and bake it until it’s just heated through and beginning to bubble. The only tedious part is picking through the crabmeat for bits of shell. But that little chore will seem well worth it when you take the first warm, creamy bite.

Savannah Chafing Dish Crab (Hot Crab Dip)

To pull out the stops and reclaim a bit of Old Savannah Elegance, polish up that chafing dish, make this the centerpiece of a white-damask-draped table, offering those buttered toast cups for dipping. But if what the occasion calls for happens to be cozy and casual, it can just be served just as it comes from the oven in its baking dish, surrounded by plain toast triangles, melba toast rounds, or butter crackers.

Serves 10-12

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ pound picked claw crabmeat
¼ cup minced scallion or other green onion
1 tablespoon finely minced parsley, plus more for garnish
Salt and whole white peppercorns in a mill
Ground cayenne pepper
Worcestershire Sauce

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375° F. Whip the cream cheese and then blend in the mayonnaise until smooth. Fold in the crabmeat, onion, and parsley and season to taste with salt, white pepper, cayenne, and a dash of Worcestershire Sauce. Mix well and transfer it to a lightly buttered 1-quart baking dish or 8-inch gratin dish and smooth the top.

2. Bake until hot through, about 15-20 minutes and serve it directly from the baking dish or transfer it to a chafing dish, with crackers or toast rounds.