Today is week 2 of the Holiday Food Fest. The sweet and talented Alta of Tasty Eats at Home is hosting this week’s theme of Fall Dishes. To me, Fall + Holiday = Thanksgiving. When you set aside the turkey, ham, side dishes, and desserts, Thanksgiving and all the special dinners during the holiday season mean one dish for sure—my sister’s now gluten-free Crab Casserole.
Where I live in Virginia—in King George county, which borders the Potomac River—we are lovers of all things crab. Specifically, we love the Maryland blue crab.
We eat our first steamed crabs usually in April or May and we don’t stop eating them until late October. We have many fond memories of Indian summers spent eating steamed crabs on the picnic table on the porch or under a shade tree that was already spectacular in its fall foliage.
Mr. GFE fondly refers to the blue crab as the “elusive crustacean.” It’s not uncommon for folks to have one or two crab pots set out in the Potomac or one of its tributaries.
They steam a bushel of crabs every weekend during the summer. If you’re lucky, these crabbers are either your family or your friends.
Others are sure to visit their local “waterman” and/or seafood dealer for a bushel of crabs hot off the cooker for Memorial Day, Father’s Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and just about any celebration that occurs during crab season. Crabs are meant for both celebrating and socializing—so crabs equal good times.
So what do we do when colder weather arrives and crab picking season ends? Do we give up crab meat for 6 months? Heavens, no.
We make dishes that contain crab meat that we’ve picked and frozen during the summer, or we head back to our local waterman/seafood dealer and buy a pound or two of crab meat that he’s picked and frozen for the winter. I’m in that latter category, although I do remember one winter when we feasted on flounder stuffed with crab meat several times.
We’d caught the flounder while fishing in the Chesapeake Bay, which was right off my parents’ summer home. We always caught and ate crabs when visiting there, too.
That particular occasion, I had picked enough crab meat to stuff the flounder before freezing. Those stuffed flounder made for an exceptional meal in January when the cold north wind was howling.
My sister found this crab casserole recipe many years ago and it’s become a winter season favorite but you can enjoy it any time of year, of course. You can even reserve enough crab meat when you’re picking your steamed crabs—if you have that much discipline. I love steamed crabs so much that I do not!
Susie makes this Crab Casserole gluten free for me by just replacing gluten-full bread with gluten-free bread. I started making it myself for those holiday meals with Mr. GFE’s side of the family. I’ve made this recipe with all kinds of gluten-free bread, both store-bought loaf bread and from “bread” I’ve made, like cornbread or corn muffins.
Susie also makes her gluten-free Crab Casserole free of dairy when Son is home by simply using soy-free Earth Balance instead of butter. We ALL love the results!
- 1 pound crab meat (see notes)
- ½ cup milk (or non-dairy equivalent)
- 3 slices of gluten-free bread (see notes)
- 1 ½ - 2 tbsp prepared mustard (I use Dijon)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I use Lea & Perrins)
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter or non-dairy equivalent, melted (this is half the original amount and you might even cut back a little more)
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 ½ tsp – 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning (or similar, to taste)
- Paprika (for sprinkling on top)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Beat eggs slightly in bowl.
- Crumble bread into pieces; add to eggs in bowl.
- Pour milk over bread, and gently stir all together.
- Add and mix all ingredients (except paprika).
- Pour into a lightly greased casserole dish (about 1 ½ qts).
- Sprinkle with paprika.
- Bake until knifes comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Adapted from the V.I.P. Cookbook: A Potpourri of Virginia Cooking, Vol. 7.
Susie says to use backfin crab meat, but I use the “special," which is a mix of backfin, and leg and claw meat---it's much more reasonably priced, although any crab meat is pricey.
I use whatever gluten-free "bread" I have available, like tapioca loaf (which admittedly I think is terrible in most cases, but is readily available and works well in this recipe), or Canyon Bakehouse gluten-free bread.
You can easily make this recipe dairy free by using Earth Balance soy-free spread or sticks and dairy-free milk (like almond milk) and using gluten-free dairy-free bread. All "more-free" versions taste just as fabulous as the original!
By the way, Mr. GFE is loving this Holiday Food Fest event as he usually doesn’t get to enjoy Susie’s Gluten-Free Crab Casserole this early in the fall! He was practically following me around the kitchen waiting for it to be ready!
I have to admit that it was also nice to get out the very special handmade pottery that my dear friend Cindi gave me years ago. It’s really too pretty and special to only use one time each year … it’s a fir tree after all—aren’t fir trees around all year long?
Originally published November 12, 2009; updated July 15, 2018.