Crabmeat St. Francis, New Style

Crabmeat St. Francis was created by the legendary New Orleans chef Warren Leruth, whose restaurant in Gretna was the premier haute-Creole place to eat in the 1960s and 1970s. Warren once told me that the biggest thing he missed about not having the restaurant anymore was that he couldn’t eat crabmeat St. Francis whenever he wanted to. It was one of the most celebrated of his dishes, a fantastic appetizer.

Like most of the rest of LeRuth’s food, the recipe for this dish was kept secret. But at a dinner in San Francisco celebrating the Chalone Winery’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Lee Leruth–Warren’s son, who had by then taken over the restaurant–cooked his version of crabmeat St. Francis. It’s a different recipe from the one actually used in the restaurant (that recipe ultimately came out years later). But I think I like this one better.

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pint crab stock
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 6 oz. butter
  • 1 large green onion, sliced finely
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped white onions
  • 3/4 cup hearts of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • Generous pinch celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 lbs. fresh jumbo lump crabmeat
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs

1. In a saucepan, bring the wine, cream, crab stock, and bay leaves up to a simmer and hold there.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, and sauté all the remaining ingredients through the salt. Sauté until the vegetables are limp and translucent.

3. Add the flour, and stir to make a blond roux with the vegetables. Take about five minutes to do this.

4. Whisk in the cream mixture completely. Lower to just under a simmer, add the parsley, and cook for about fifteen minutes. Remove the bay leaves.

5. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time.

6. Place two ounces of lump crabmeat in a ramekin or baking shell. Top with 1/2 cup of the sauce, sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs, and bake at 425 degrees until the top is browned and bubbly.

Serves twelve to sixteen.

Crabmeat St. Francis was created by the legendary New Orleans chef Warren Leruth, whose restaurant in Gretna was the premier haute-Creole place to eat in the 1960s and 1970s. Warren once told me that the biggest thing he missed about not having the restaurant anymore was that he couldn’t eat crabmeat St. Francis whenever he wanted to. It was one of the most celebrated of his dishes, a fantastic appetizer. Read more. . .

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