Alaska Snow Crab Imperial

Like a casserole, this imperial has the perfect combination of crunch and cream. The tender sweet snow crab keeps together during cooking then gently, as if on cue, melts in your mouth. Secret Ingredient: Béchamel sauce. Yum!

Alaska Snow Crab Imperial

Recipe courtesy of Chef Vitaly Paley
Course Appetizer
Servings 4 people


  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • ¼ tsp Espellette pepper or another sweet mild chili powder
  • ½ tsp fennel pollen or ground fennel seed
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion peeled and medium diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ red bell pepper deseeded and medium diced
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp Pernod
  • 2 ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup fresh picked dill sprigs tightly packed and coarsely chopped plus few more sprigs for garnish
  • ¼ cup tightly packed Italian parsley leaves washed, dried and coarsely chopped
  • Crab meat from one section of Alaska Snow Crab approximately 6 oz of picked crab meat
  • 1 cup Béchamel recipe follows


    Makes 1 cup

    • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
    • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • ½ tbsp kosher salt
    • Heaping ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • Heaping ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg


    • For the Béchamel
    • Set a small pot over medium heat and add butter. Once butter has melted, whisk in flour, reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent browning. Slowly pour in milk whisking vigorously, increase heat to medium and continue whisking until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.
    • Continue cooking on low heat, whisking frequently until the sauce is thick and smooth, and has no raw flour flavor, about 10 minutes. Transfer béchamel to a small bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper against the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside until ready to use.
    • You can also cover tightly and refrigerate for up to three days.
    • For the Imperial
    • Mix the breadcrumbs with Parmigiano Reggiano, Espelette pepper and half of the fennel pollen then set aside. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
    • Set a heavy bottom sauté pan over a medium flame and heat the olive oil for about 1 minute. Add onions, garlic, red pepper and cook, stirring gently, until soft with no coloration, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Mix in cayenne and remaining fennel pollen.
    • To prevent from igniting, turn the heat off and stir in Pernod and lemon juice. Turn the heat back on to medium to reduce all the liquid, about 1 more minute. Transfer all the contents of the sauté pan into a mixing bowl and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
    • Stir in chopped dill, parsley and picked crab. Gently fold in béchamel then transfer it all into a 7″ round or oval casserole dish that holds approximately 3 cups by volume. Top evenly with bread crumb mixture and bake until the crab dip starts to bubble around the perimeter of the dish and crumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Garnish with remaining dill sprigs and serve immediately.
    • For individual portions, split the crab mixture evenly between 4, four-ounce ceramic ramekins.


    Recipe by Chef Vitaly Paley
    Keyword crab

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