Jan 28 2012

Crab au Gratin will make you feel like a Marylander. Welcome!

One of the neatest things I ever did was get a job as a waitress. But, not just as any waitress, although I have been just any waitress since then, for I was a “Phillips Girl.” In Maryland, when kids graduate from high school, they all head to Ocean City to celebrate. And so did I. I was eighteen and I loved it at the beach, so I decided to go to Phillips Crab House and get a job. It was a job that would change my life, for many reasons, talking about The Repercussions of Unanticipated Acts, as the topic was discussed on BlogHer.com But, I could make fifty posts about all of that, so it will have to wait, because…

A Phillips Crab House postcard from the early 1970s.

The reverse of the Phillips Crab House postcard above.

…I want to tell you about Maryland Crab au Gratin. When I worked at Phillips, it was on the menu and, as you can see from the prices, that was a while back. Phillips Crab au Gratin was on lumps of back fin crab meat, seasoned as only Phillips could. I’ve taken Phillips Crab Imperial, posted on their web site years ago, and added cheese as an au gratin tribute to my favorite Ocean City memories.

A cardboard Phillips Crab House Menu from the early 1970s.

A menu close up showing Crab au Gratin 1970s pricing.


Sunbonnet Smart Heritage Recipes

Crab au Gratin using
Phillips Crab House Crab Imperial Recipe

Crab Imperial
Yield: 6 servings
1 lb Phillips Jumbo Lump Crab Meat
1 tsp. parsley
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 egg
1 tsp Phillips Seafood Seasoning
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 oz  Hellman’s Mayonnaise
1 tsp melted butter

6 ramekins for baking
Pinch of paprika

Imperial Sauce (Don’t use for the Crab au Gratin.)
3 oz Hellman’s Mayonnaise
1 oz half & half
½ tsp Phillips Seafood Seasoning
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp Worcestershire Sauce

Combine all Crab Imperial ingredients EXCEPT FOR THE CRAB. Whip until smooth. Add crab and GENTLY toss to avoid breaking the lumps. Divide into ramekins and bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes. Combine ingredients for Imperial Sauce and whip until smooth.  Top each ramekin with Imperial Sauce and a pinch of paprika and broil until golden brown.

For Sunbonnet Smart Crab au Gratin:

1 one quart flat au gratin cookware to be used instead of 6 ramekins
½ lb good sharp cheddar cheese

I make the Crab Imperial from Phillips and use it without the Imperial Sauce. Place the Crab Imperial in a greased one quart flat au gratin cookware and bake at 400° for 15-20minutes.  Remove from oven and add shredded cheddar cheese to cover and sprinkle with paprika and Phillips seafood seasoning, if desired. Put under broiler until cheese is melted and just starting to brown.

I usually double the recipe by getting 2 lbs of Phillips Crab Meat at COSTCO, 1 lb lump and 1 lb backfin. That doubles the recipe to make two 1 quart flat au gratin cookware portions, one to eat and one to wrap well and freeze. I don’t put the cheese on when freezing the second one. I put it on after baking.

Early in the last century a boy, Ivy Flowers, swam across Tar Bay to Hoopers Island, Maryland to see a girl.  During the same period, Captain Augustus Elsworth Phillips, Jr. was the captain of the cargo schooner, McCready. Brice Phillips and Shirley Flowers, the children of these two men from the Chesapeake, would marry and have two sons, Steve and Jeffrey. With the family’s Hoopers Island packing plant as a base, the Phillips would create a worldwide empire based upon their relationship with the crab. This is the story of that family. It is also the story of the Empires of the Crab.

If you have an interest, hover your
mouse over this link: Empires Of The Crab

Amazon Review:  “This eloquently written book is more than biography, it is an evocative social-study of one family’s travel from a Chesapeake Bay backwater to modernity. Brice and Shirley Phillips were born and raised on a remote island-promontory jutting into the sea on the eastern side of Chesapeake Bay. They grew up in the crab-processing business. While preserving that, they gravitated to the seafood restaurant business, one thing including much hard work led to another, and they prospered. Their son pioneered crab processing in the Phillippines, Malaysia and mainland Asia, and the Phillips enterprise is now respected globally.”

NaBloPoMo January 2012

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