Crab and Asparagus Melts

March 19, 2012 8:46:47 AM PDT
This upscale version of a tuna melt combines a few ingredients for a gratifying lunch or simple summer.

The combination of crab, asparagus and sharp cheddar is light enough for warm weather and satisfying enough for the inevitable cold snap. Choose a simple white wine with good acidity such as a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, a Portuguese vinho verde or a South African chenin blanc.

Serves 8

  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons Herbed Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • Several grinds white pepper
  • 12 stalks asparagus, tough ends discarded
  • 4 good quality hamburger buns or ciabatta rolls
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl combine the crabmeat with the cucumber, celery, orange zest, herbed Mayonnaise, ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Toss well, refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.

In a 3 quart saucepan bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. In a large bowl, combine a quart of ice cubes and a quart of water. Reserve.

When the water is boiling add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Drain the asparagus and put it immediately into the bowl of ice water. Let stand until very cold to stop the cooking. Drain and pat dry. Open the buns and arrange them, cut sides up on a baking sheet. Brush them with the oil. Bake until crispy, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Divide the crab mixture equally among the buns, making an even layer.

Cut the asparagus spears crosswise in half and arrange 3 pieces on each bun. Sprinkle the cheese over the asparagus and crab. Bake crab melts until cheese is melted and bubbly and crab is hot, about 10 minutes.

Note: This crab mixture can be piled on sturdy crackers, sprinkled with cheese and heated briefly for snacks.

Herbed Mayonnaise: I like to make my own mayonnaise but you can use store-bought as well. Place about 1 /2 cups of mayonnaise in the bowl of a food processor. Add 1 bunch finely chopped watercress, 2-3 finely chopped green onions and 6-8 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped. Process the mixture until it is combined. For a more rustic mayonnaise, combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Adapted from "West Town Tavern: Contemporary Comfort Food." All rights reserved