Food You Can Eat: Flounder Stuffed With Crab Imperial

À la recherche du temps perdu

Image via Food Network. They serve their version on a bed of green beans almondine, which is an excellent choice but not what I do.

When I used to go down to that beach house gray, rainy days were the worst. There’s only so much chatting even the chattiest among us can attempt. One day during one of those weeks two housemates and I set off in search of something to do. There was a restaurant that was open, even though it was 3 in the afternoon and the beach was deserted, so we stopped in for a late lunch. We were the only three in there.

On the menu was a flounder stuffed with Crab Imperial. I had never heard of this, even though, it turns out, it was right up my alley, because I now believe it reached its heyday right around the time DeSoto was releasing their 1956 models. Since the restaurant was deserted and I was bored to the point of attempting homicide against one of the housemates, I ordered it and asked the waiter if, by chance, I could go into the kitchen and see how this was done. The waiter checked and came back and said, “Sure, OK.”

What awaited me was one of the most attractive guys I’ve ever stood shoulder to shoulder with. Sadly he was wearing standard-issue black-and-white checked chef’s pants, a long-sleeve white shirt, and an apron. Had he been wearing swimwear—but anyway, I had my True Beloved waiting for me at home and I probably had 10 years on the guy AND he had a nose ring, ew.

Without further ado, here is Chef Hottie’s Flounder Stuffed With Crab Imperial

Chef Hottie informed me that normally he would serve this as kind of a sandwich, with two halves of a flounder fillet and Crab Imperial filling, when anyone ordered it at all, which was rarely. For me, he said, his nose ring glinting under the harsh light of the beachside restaurant kitchen, he would show me how to make two roulades. Would I like to see how that’s done? “Oh yes, show me everything.”

This makes 2 roulades, Chef Hottie was very generous, so this really feeds 2. They’re very filling.

Take out some refrigerated lump crabmeat. Put a heaping large ice cream scoop’s worth in a bowl, add 1 tbsp mayo (I use Hellmann’s), 1/2 egg*, squeeze a little lemon juice in, add some Worcestershire sauce, some bread crumbs to make everything stick together, a little mustard (I use the ever-present Dijon; his was from an unmarked container) and generously season with Old Bay. This beach town seemed to live on crab meat and Old Bay seasoning so this did not surprise me. It is one of its many charms. Stir this very gently, as if your hands were—stir very gently because you want the lump crab to remain lumpy. This, I learned, is Crab Imperial.

*Break an egg into a bowl and whisk it. Spoon out half.

Adjust your oven to 350 degrees. I don’t remember this exactly but I think Chef Hottie’s was already kind of raring to go. For you, the home chef, preheat. Now, take out a baking sheet and spray with non-stick spray. Take out two refrigerated flounder fillets, each about 5 or 6” long. The fillets need to be deskinned and deboned, and let me tell you I could have spent the entire beach week deskinning and deboning flounder fillets with Chef Hottie—salt the fillets a little bit and down the center of each spoon in the Crab Imperial. With your hands roll them as if you were making a chicken cordon bleu and place them seam-side down on the baking sheet. CH had a masterful technique OF COURSE HE WOULD but when I make this I have to keep them in place with a toothpick. Brush a little melted butter on the tops of each one and put them in the oven for about 20 minutes. While your delightful freshly made creation is cooking, make the sad bacon cheeseburger your one dining companion ordered, and from the fridge pull out the pre-made salad and desultorily add industrial-grade vinaigrette for the other dining companion.

For the roulades, serve with the tantalizing aroma of a hot guy I serve these with a quarter of a lemon, long grain rice and some crusty bread.



        • Really? Maybe that’s why it showed up on that restaurant’s menu. This would have been the late ’90s, 2001 at the latest. Good to know! 

          Edit: I have just consulted my new prized possession, The Sinatra Celebrity Cookbook (1996). There is a recipe for Crab Meat Alan King and he used a Mornay sauce and provides the recipe for that, too, so it’s a two-fer. A few pages later is Paul Newman’s Italian Baked Scrod. But nowhere in the seafood section does a celebrity think to stuff seafood, which is a shame.

          Somewhat surprisingly in that same section Betty Ford contributed a shrimp dish called Betty’s Blue Bayou, and it too requires a Mornay sauce, and she too provides a recipe, and also one for Béchamel, so it is three-fer. I think I’ll tackle this at some point; it must be very rich. The recipe also calls for white wine, which, Betty, do you think that’s really a good idea?

  1. I’m surprised you hadn’t come across it before then. Almost every restaurant I was in between the late 70’s until maybe ’95 offered some version of this. It was the fancy celebration meal my aunts would make. I’ve even eaten it at several weddings.

    • I’ve been to a hundred weddings (almost literally, I stopped counting at 60 and have been to more since, because I love them so and few men do) and now that you mention it stuffed fish fillets did make an appearance pretty frequently for those who wanted it. I guess I meant more that I had never heard the term “crab imperial.”  

  2. I’ve never heard of crab imperial! Although being smack in the middle of the country and not anywhere close to where lil crabbies live, most of what restaurants have is Alaskan crab legs or some variation of crab cakes where I guarantee they’re using canned crab. 

    Notable exception being local Creole restaurant Boogaloo, which is one of my favorites in St. Louis, and their crab cakes are made with crawdad meat. 

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