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Crabmeat St. Francis (Original Recipe)

This was one of the best and most popular dishes created by Chef Warren Leruth at his spectacular restaurant. He told me once that the thing he missed most about not having LeRuth’s open anymore was that he couldn’t grab and eat an order of this dish at moment’s notice.

Crabmeat St. Francis is also special in that it’s one of the few regular menu items from LeRuth’s for which the chef ever published the recipe. As was true in much of Leruth’s cooking, this recipe uses ingredients and techniques generally left behind by today’s gourmet chefs. Despite that, this is a dish that knows few peers.

For a long time (and still) the recipe on this website for Crabmeat St. Francis was a reworked version composed by the late Lee Leruth, Warren’s son and also a chef. Larry Leruth–also Warren’s son and a chef says that this is the original recipe, as it was done in the restaurant. Here it is.

Crabmeat St. Francis, with a little gratin on top (not part of the original recipe, but a nice optional touch.)

Crabmeat St. Francis, with a little gratin on top (not part of the original recipe, but a nice optional touch.)

  • Sauce:
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 inner ribs celery, bottom 2 inches only, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme leaves (dried)
  • 1/4 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Accent
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 3 Tbs. flour
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. spicy paprika
  • 1 lb. lump crabmeat
  • 3 Tbs. butter, melted

1. Heat the butter in a saucepan until it bubbles. Add all the sauce ingredients except the milk and flour, and sauté until the vegetables are well browned and sticking a little bit to the pan. Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes.

2. After 15 minutes, add the evaporated milk and 3/4 cup of water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring lightly.

3. While the boil is coming up, whisk the flour into 3 oz. of water. After the pan comes to a boil, stir the flour-water mixture slowly into the other ingredients. Simmer for three minutes, until the sauce is thick.

4. Spoon the sauce into a pan and refrigerate until it thickens, or overnight.

5. To complete the dish, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and paprika.

6. Divide the crabmeat among four to six scallop shells or small au gratin dishes. Top with about 1/4 cup of the chilled sauce. Sprinkle with a heaping Tbs. of the bread crumb mixture. Bake at 425 degrees until the crumbs brown and the sides of the dish begin to bubble–20-25 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven and top with 1 tsp. melted butter. Serve very hot.

Serves four to six.

6 Readers Commented

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  1. patrkick on March 12, 2015

    I had this in 1979 and 1980 because it took six months to get a reservation. I remember every bite

  2. patrick pillion on March 14, 2015

    Had this twice 1979 1980 6 month waiting list I remember every bite

  3. Larry Leruth on July 25, 2017

    I gave Tom the recipe for Crabmeat St Francis that yielded 7 & 1/2 cups. I wished he would have posted that recipe. It is very hard to any kind of consistency with such a small version of the recipe. Also when thickening with any slurry, whitewash, it is very important to bring it to 185 degrees, thats when the starch in the flour starts to work.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on July 26, 2017

      Thanks for that recipe, Larry, but if scaling it down was a problem, I haven’t noticed it. I have two recipes in my online collection, the other one being a very up-to-date one with whipping cream instead of evaporated milk. That one came from Lee [Larry’s late brother] for a dinner he presented at Chalone Winery on the Central Coast in California. I attended that dinner and can report that the attendees were knocked out by that one, too.

  4. Charles Dunlap on December 2, 2017

    I loved Leruth’s restaurant in the 70’s and still miss it. Many of its dishes were perfection. This one was a gem. I also love Tom’s NO recipe book. The problem I have with your recipe here is the flour. 3 Tablespoons of flour in what I make out to be less than 2 cups of liquid just gives me a thick, brown sauce that just can’t be right. What am I missing?

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