Many years ago, I spent an afternoon at a New York culinary school to see about becoming a student. While I had hoped to sit in a cooking class, it was a small school with only one course taught daily and that day’s instruction was on wine, so I learned about French varietals instead.
As I asked questions about the food portion of the program, one of the instructors gave me a recipe for a crab dip. We’ll be discussing this tomorrow, she said, if you want to return. I couldn’t, but I thanked them for the recipe and took it home with me.
Now, being a Texan who grew up near the coast, I’m no stranger to crab dip. The classic combination of cream cheese, peppers, aromatics, and flaked crab is a rich and flavorful appetizer that was almost as ubiquitous at special gatherings as the slow cooker filled with queso. It always went fast.
While I had expected that a crab dip hailing from a cooking school would have some fancy flourish to make it rise above the rest, instead the one I received was the exact rendition that I’d been enjoying all my life! No matter, I made a batch for my friends and it was welcomed, but I decided that perhaps this cooking school wasn’t the place for me, as I already knew much of what they could teach me.
Now that I’m back in Texas, crab dip is still a party-time favorite. Though I’ve also been enjoying it on top of nachos or stuffed into jalapeños, as well. This got me thinking. Why not incorporate those Tex-Mex elements into my basic dip? Making a batch of nachos and stuffed jalapeños yields tasty results, but if you’re having guests, you may want to have an option that is simpler to prepare yet just as flavorful. A dip can do this easily.
With that in mind, I took my basic crab dip, which may be very much like your crab dip, and livened it up with jalapeños, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice. I added some pepper Jack to my cream cheese and sour cream base, and stirred in some cumin, cayenne, and celery salt for added earthiness and pep. Many dips are topped with almonds, but for mine, I crumbled up buttery crackers, instead.
After a spell in the oven, the dip comes out molten and bubbling, ready to be enjoyed. To keep with the Tex-Mex theme, I serve it with tortillas chips, and as you take a dip and take a bite, you’ll find that the sweet crab goes well with the chile peppers and cheese.
Perhaps it will remind you of eating crab nachos or stuffed jalapeños, yet it can be easily made for and served to your loved ones when you don’t want to fuss but savor each other’s company instead.
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Jalapeño crab dip
- 8- ounces cream cheese, softened
- 4 ounces (1 cup) pepper Jack cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup pickled jalapeno slices, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 green onions, green part only, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 8 ounces fresh lump crab meat
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup finely crushed buttery crackers
- Tortilla chips and/or crackers, for serving
- Pickled jalapeño slices, for garnishing
Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 1-quart baking dish.
In a mixing bowl, stir together until well blended the cream cheese, pepper Jack, sour cream, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, pickled jalapeños, garlic, green onions, cilantro, cumin, celery salt, and cayenne.
Gently stir in the crab meat. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed.
Spoon the crab dip into the baking dish. In a separate bowl, stir together the melted butter and crushed crackers, then sprinkle over the top of the dip.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until browned and bubbling. Garnish the top with pickled jalapeño slices. Serve warm with tortilla chips and/or crackers.