Potted Irish Crab

27 Jul 2010

Much to the delight of my husband, I have chosen potted crab for this week’s post. Inspired by adventures in Dublin last week with my new L.A. comrade Clare K. {of the fabulous and thought-provoking “An American In Ireland” blog} we excitedly found ourselves in Stoneybatter at the newly opened and much anticipated gastropub/craft brewpub: L. Mulligan Grocer along with various other Irish foodies and creative types.

We shared the most divine pot of crab to start, which led to an incredibly tender and succulent rib-eye naughtily smothered with creamy and sweet Kilbeggan Whiskey butter.  A single perfect crunchy latke-like potato cake was nestled right in there as well.  But the crab…oh, the crab–I was enamored.

For days I kept thinking about potted crab and how on earth I’d never experienced it before moving to Ireland. I remember having it in Kenmare at an amazing little place called the Lime Tree however, on a recent visit, potted crab was off the menu and the food simply didn’t translate the same…the cook? the kitchen? don’t know. Avoca’s potted crab is fresh and lovely..but they take the delicate meat out of the sealed container before serving so that it’s all light and fluffy which isn’t really the proper way of serving…at L. Mulligan it was served up properly in the sweet little vintage jar in which it was tenderly preserved. And it was heavenly.

Potted crab calls for clarified butter, which is butter that has been cleansed of the residual milk proteins and liquid. It can be heated to high temps without burning and is magnificent to use for pan-frying fish if you are so inclined. Pouring this layer of clarified butter over potted crab, fish or shrimp is a time-honoured Irish method of short-term preservation from the days before refrigeration.

For me, this is a perfect summer dinner…made with West Cork crab and served with toasted thick sourdough bread or Irish soda loaf. Remove the solid butter seal and it is absolutely light and fulfilling when accompanied by a mixed salad of flavourful greens such as watercress, rocket or mache and a glass of crisp, cold Sauvignon Blanc, Unoaked Chardonnay or Pinot Gris.


Irish Potted Crab (serves 6)

400 g very fresh crabmeat (West Cork crab is wonderful)

150 unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

pinch of salt

about 100 g clarified butter

6 small bay leaves

Pick over the crabmeat to make sure there are no shell fragments.

Warm the butter just enough to melt and stir in crabmeat, fennel seeds, mace, cayenne and a little salt. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Pack the mixture into a single dish or divide equally into six small pots or ramekins. Cover and chill until firm-about an hour.

Heat clarified butter just enough to melt it and pour over the surface of the potted crab to seal it. The amount of butter needed will depend on the size and number of pots. Top with a bay leaf, cover and chill.

Give crab at least 24 hours in the refrigerator to allow flavours to mingle and develop. Serve with toasted, buttered thick bread.

Clarified Butter:

500 g unsalted butter

Melt butter in a heavy pan on low heat. Bring it to the gentlest of simmers and hold at this temperature, without stirring (yes, it will kill you), until all the sediment has fallen to the bottom of the pan and the liquid butter is clear. This will take 30 minutes or more.

Use a fine sieve with a layer of cheesecloth and strain the liquid butter into a bowl or jar, leaving sediment in the pan. Allow butter to cool completely before covering and storing in a cool place.

Slan Abhaile,


Photo by Imen McDonnell. With assistance by Master Geoffrey McDonnell.

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5 Responses to “Potted Irish Crab”

  1. Melinda says:

    Trying this one very soon! Now I just need a decent crab source (being in Montana it’s difficult). I suppose I can wait until I’m in Ireland this autumn. Delish post!

  2. Daily Spud says:

    Divine! Missed the potted crab at L. Mulligan Grocer the other evening, though I was in West Cork this weekend and did have crab there (and you’re right, that West Cork crab is wonderful…)

  3. Krista says:

    Absolutely WONDERFUL!! Sigh, this dish is pure comfort food and makes my heart happy just looking at it. 🙂

  4. Clare says:

    I’ve been dreaming of that potted crab ever since as well! And now I am going to be dreaming of this one, lol. It looks absolutely luscious! 🙂

  5. TheGlutton says:

    That picture is so enticing… I love that little black dish! Do you recall where its from? I love crab but don’t eat enough of it – I am sure that’s a common complaint!

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