I have a terrible memory. Fascinatingly bad really, for someone so organized and obsessively high functioning. And I’m not even saying this so you’ll exclaim, “No you don’t, Erina, you have an amazing memory! It’s like the best memory of anyone I know,” like I used to do when I was a teenager and would feign wishing I had bigger lips so people would exclaim “You wouldn’t want bigger lips! Your lips are perfect…and super big! You practically look like Angelina Jolie!”
No, the truth is my memory is shit. Not for the day-to-day mind you, I am capable of keeping 50 projects running simultaneously at work, remembering the most minute detail about each, but for major life events like my 8th grade graduation. Or some bunny we apparently had growing up. Or my uncle’s wedding.
So I find it strange, though maybe I shouldn’t, that I have an impeccable memory when it comes to food. I remember with aching clarity the first time I had Saag Paneer, while visiting my friend Madeline in Toronto. Each little bite of cheese a seemingly glorious, hidden prize, and each piece of spinach scooped and scraped up until there was nothing left. I remember getting lost in Florence and unknowingly stumbling upon a famous pizzeria that slung the most perfect slices for 1 Euro a piece, and were sold out and shut down by noon each day. I remember the first time I tasted Sweet Breads in a little NYC restaurant, the savory, smooth, rich flavor dancing across my tongue as I quickly did the math in my head that if I skipped the taxi back to my hotel I could maybe order another plate. Simply put, I remember food, the way my brother Ben remembers everything else. With excruciating detail, and a general state of shock that others don’t remember it exactly the same way.
A few months back we had dinner at one of our local pizza joints, Flying Squirrel. The pie’s were yummy, as always, and the Caesar salad an expected ringer. What blew me away though, what I ate much more than my share of, what I thought about for weeks afterward was their Dungeness Crab Dip served with Pizza Dough Bread Sticks.
It was rich. It was sinful. It was sumptuous. And I couldn’t get it out of my head.
A few weeks ago l got the ingredients to try to recreate it. I cheerfully exclaimed to Matt what I was doing…what I was about to undertake…what potential greatness awaited us and he looked at me with a blank stare.
“What crab dip? We got crab dip at Flying Squirrel? Okay…I guess I don’t remember it.”
I was flabbergasted…how could you forget this? But alas…he had. And despite my beseeching requests that he try to remember as I described it in painstaking detail, he did not. Perhaps it is better that way. He can remember major life events, history, politics, and birthdays and I can remember our meals.
My rendition was nearly as good and a perfect appetizer when paired with Grilled Braided Bread Sticks and Champagne. It makes a big batch so I actually split it between two dishes and served it two nights in a row at two different parties, each time greeted with great acclaim. If you don’t have time to do the bread sticks you could skip them and just do toasted french bread instead, but they are a lovely complement.
Dungeness Crab Dip
Adapted from Food & Wine
Makes two large appetizer dishes, enough for 12 easily
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon dry vermouth
3/4 cup cream cheese (6 ounces), softened
1 cup Beechers Flagship Cheddar (or something equally sharp and delicious)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons minced chives
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
Salt and pepper
Dash of Tabasco
1 1/2 pounds jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any bits of shell
- In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until just beginning to brown, 4 minutes. Add the vermouth and cook until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, chives and tarragon. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and a dash of Tabasco, and scrape into a large bowl. Fold in the crabmeat, maintaining the large pieces of meat. Spread the crab dip in a shallow baking dish, two dishes, or 12 shallow ramekins pending how you want to serve it.
- Preheat the broiler. Position a rack 10 inches from the heat. Broil until the dip is heated through and the topping is golden, about 2 minutes; shift the baking dish for even browning. Serve warm with Grilled Braided Bread Sticks.
Make Ahead The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight. Return to room temperature before broiling.
Grilled Braided Bread Sticks
1 loaf store-bought pizza dough, I use Trader Joes
- Remove bread from refrigerator and allow to rest lightly floured surface for 30 minutes.
- Slightly press out the dough, until it’s an 8″ circle.
- Divide into nine even sections.
- Using your hands, and gravity, allow each piece to stretch out until it is about 12″ long and 1.5″ side.
- On a floured surface take three pieces, press the tops together, and then braid until the end. Press ends together.
- Transfer to a cookie sheet and brush each side with olive oil.
- Get grill as hot as possible and allow to heat for another 10 minutes, scraping off the grates and carefully rubbing with olive oil on a paper towel.
- Reducing heat to 3/4, add the bread sticks to the grill, and cook until lightly browned and puffy, about 3-5 minutes per side, pending on the heat of your grill. Watch carefully to make sure they don’t burn.
- If you like, once done feel free to top with grated parmesan, or red pepper flakes, or roasted garlic, or whatever suits you.
Category Appetizers, Comfort Foods, Entertaining, Make ahead, Seafood, Uncategorized | Tags: Beechers Flagship, braided bread sticks, bread sticks, crab dip, dungeness crab, flying squirrel, grilled bread sticks