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Crab Louis, The King of Salads

Crab Louis, The King of Salads
Dungeness Crabs, the Crabmeat of Choice for Crab Louis

This incredibly easy salad is the perfect hot weather kick-off.

As the temperature rises, and we look for ways to make both cooking and eating a breeze, Crab Louis (or Louie) is high on our list. The most seasonal of vegetables and sweet crab meat are combined with a creamy-rich dressing. It couldn’t be simpler to make. You can vary the vegetables depending on what’s freshest at the farm stand. Asparagus, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes—they’re your choice to make.  You can even go so far as to go faux with the crabmeat and use “Crab Sticks”. Judging from the price of the preferred Dungeness Crab at Costco, that might not be as bad an idea as it sounds. But we’ll stick with the good stuff for purposes of authenticity to say nothing of taste.

If you must, you can use Crab Sticks, although you might want to call it Faux Crab

Is it Crab Louis or Louie?

The key to Crab Louis is the dressing

The origins of Crab Louie, and that is how it’s pronounced, are muddled. There’s no question that it’s from the Pacific Northwest where it’s been on restaurant menus since the early 1900s. There was an abundance of Dungeness Crab from Northern California to Alaska. In the 1800s crab salad might be made with just a little mayonnaise. By the early 20th century, crab was being served with lettuce and vegetables.  The recipe for Crab Louis made its first appearance in 1912 in the Portland Council of Jewish Women’s Neighborhood Cookbook.  Ignoring Jewish dietary laws against eating shellfish, the recipe called for lettuce, two hard-boiled eggs, and shredded crabmeat. But the key, now and then, was the dressing: 3 tbsp. of oil, 1 of vinegar, ½ of catsup, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt, and a tad of English mustard.

Enrico Caruso, the King of Tenors, but whether he ate the King of Salads is in question.

So who exactly invented Crab Louis?

According to “Food Lover’s Companion” (Barron’s 2009), there are three possible inventors: The Chef at Seattle’s Olympic Club, the chef at San Francisco’s Solari’s Restaurant of the Chef at the St. Francis Hotel there.  For lovers of food lore, here’s one for the books: Italian tenor Enrico Caruso came to Seattle in 1904 and ate Crab Louis at the Olympic Club where he developed an insatiable appetite for it. The only problem with that story is that the inimitable Caruso never performed in Seattle.  Whatever its origin, Crab Louis became so popular there that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer declared “A trip to Seattle without a feast of Crab a la Louis is like Paris without the Eiffel Tower.”

There are about as many versions of Crab Louis as there are cooks.

When you make it, I highly recommend sticking to the dressing recipe here. It is from Food and Wine Magazine.  It’s luscious and adds incredible flavor to everything else on the plate.  But as to the vegetables, you could use some cooked asparagus or green beans or roasted beets and I am sure it would be every bit as satisfying.  This recipe is for 4.  Even if there are only two of you, make the dressing for four because I think you’ll find it would be a great sandwich spread or dressing for a slaw.  Here’s the recipe and after it some other crab dishes to enjoy.

Crab Louis, The King of Salads

June 7, 2022
: 4
: 15 min
: About as easy as it gets.

Sweet crab combined with whatever seasonal vegetables you fancy served with a simply wonderful creamy-rich dressing.

By:

Ingredients
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • For the Salad:
  • Two 6-ounce romaine hearts, cut crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • One 6-ounce seedless cucumber, thinly sliced or cut into spears
  • 4 large radishes, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges (optional)
  • 4 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges
  • 1 pound crabmeat, preferably Dungeness
Directions
  • Step 1 Prepare the dressing: In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the ketchup, relish, lemon juice, garlic, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, paprika and chili powder and season with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • Step 2 Prepare the hard-boiled eggs: Put the eggs into a medium saucepan of cold water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the pan for 17 minutes. Drain and cool. Peel and slice the eggs into quarters.
  • Step 3 Arrange the romaine, cucumber, radishes, tomatoes, eggs, and on a platter. Top with large chunks of crabmeat. Put the dressing into individual ramekins if you have them or pass the dressing at the table.

Melissa Clark’s Buttery Crab Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Chervil

Singapore’s Signature Chili Crab may be easier to make Stateside than it is in Singapore.

A trip down the Mississippi and a great recipe for Gulf Coast Crab Cakes with Lemon Butter


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