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Growing up in California I always awaited those brief months when the Dungeness crab and artichoke seasons overlapped. This dish is my effort to recreate some of those beautiful memories in a new form, more suitable for winter and the East Coast. It's greatly helped along by our stunningly versatile Pierre Poivre blend.
1 (8 ounce) container of lump crab meat, picked over for any bits of shell and cartilage
1 (14 ounce) can of artichoke hearts in water, drained and cut into thin slices lengthwise
1 stick butter
1 small onion, finely minced
2-3 scallions, greens thinly sliced on the bias and reserved for garnish, whites finely minced
2 tsp Pierre Poivre N7
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 (12 ounce can) of evaporated milk
Lemon juice, and or a high-acid white wine (e.g Riesling, Muscadet)
Aleppo pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
1/2 cup grated Gruyère (or sub Sbrinz or Emmental)
1/2 cup grated Fontina (or sub Edam or mild provolone)
Salt, to taste
Pre-heat your oven to 350°F and butter an oven-safe casserole or dish that will hold 2 quarts.* Add a layer of half of the sliced artichoke hearts, then all of the crab meat in an even layer.
In a sauce pot melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the scallion whites, Pierre Poivre and flour and stir well to combine, then cook for 2-3 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Switch to a whisk and add the evaporated milk, whisking well to combine and dissolve any lumps. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens to a cream soup texture, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add wine and/or lemon juice, plus Aleppo and/or hot sauce to your tastes. You want it lightly tart with barely a trace of heat.
Remove the pot from heat and stir in 2/3 of the cheeses, mixing until they are well incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt if you need to.
Pour the sauce into the casserole, add the remaining artichoke hearts (this layer can be more decorative if you like), then gently top with the remaining cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes, and optionally place under the broiler for a few more (make sure to watch closely, with the oven door open, as this happens fast).
Garnish with the sliced scallions, plus a bit more Pierre if you like, and serve with bread. My favorite is a nice sourdough.
* I love the older casseroles and ramekins from Aluminite Frugier prior to their acquisition by Haviland, because they are incredibly light and delicate for their size.
• If you're a pepper fanatic, you can also add a dusting of Pierre to the artichoke and crab in the dish.
• For a more savory and rounded flavor try adding 1/2 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg to the sauce.
• Try adding some Parmigiano Reggiano (about 2 ounces, grated), either to the dip or with the cheeses on top.
• You can go cheesier (another 1/3 cup or so), I like to add a bit of Shabazi N38 in this case to brighten it up.
• Or sub either crab or artichoke hearts for one another; the recipe still works great. Makes for a nice vegetarian option if you only use artichokes.
Food images and recipe © Christian Leue.
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