Crab Gratin

Valentine Warner's favourite way to enjoy crab sees it steeped in a velvety sauce and topped with crunchy cheese crust
By Valentine Warner
Crab Gratin
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Effort: easy

Ingredients

  • 25 g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 small onion, or ½ large onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme, very finely chopped
  • 1 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 50 ml brandy
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • 200 ml milk
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • 150 g soft brown crab meat
  • 200 g white crab meat

For the topping

  • 100 g breadcrumbs, from a coarse, stale loaf
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 40 g gruyère cheese, grated, or strong cheddar
  • 1 handfuls curly parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 tsp olive oil

Method

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and over a medium heat and sweat the onion and garlic for 7-8 minutes. Add the thyme for the last couple of minutes when the onions are just turning golden.

2. Add the brandy and let it bubble away, then add 1 teaspoon of flaky sea salt and stir in the flour. Cook for 30 seconds or so, then slowly pour in the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Simmer the mixture very gently for 5 minutes ' it may seem very thick, but will thin out nicely.

3. Add the mustard and tomato purée, then flop in the brown crabmeat, taking care to mash up any large, dense chunks. Stir the sauce over the heat for a couple of minutes before taking it off the hob and folding in the white crabmeat, which you can leave fairly chunky.

4. Smear a medium-sized gratin dish (or a few individual ones) with butter and pour in the crab mixture. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.

5. For the topping: in a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley. Add about 1 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper, a little salt and drizzle in the olive oil. Mix well then scatter generously over the crab mixture.

6. Place the crab gratin in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on top. Serve hot.

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