Seattle-Style Dungeness Crab Roll

Sandwiches, Seafood

seattle crab rolls 03

I know, I know, I’ve been posting a lot of crab recipes. OK, only three now. But it’s for a very good reason. The harvest has been excellent this season. It might just be because it’s the beginning of it, but I’d rather not question it. Regardless, I’m finally able to make all these recipes I’ve hoped to try.

A few years ago, my brother and I took a road trip through New England. We ended up driving north to Maine, in part because of the legendary lobster rolls. We drove out to the craggy edge of the Atlantic and ate at The Lobster Shack.

The lobster roll satisfied every love of both trashy, fatty food and refined, culinary delicacies we had. It was one part goop and another part luxury, a richness in every sense of the word.

When I returned, I cooked a lobster and made some bisque. With the leftover meat, I made lobster rolls. I even began writing a post for them. Yeah, they were good. Yeah, they were trashy. Of course they were luxurious. But something was missing. Something didn’t feel right. I felt like an… imposter.

I thought long and hard about it. Every ingredient seemed right: a piece of white bread folded in half, a mound of red lobster meat, mayonnaise, paprika, salt. Probably a pickle, too. Nothing. My heart just wasn’t in it.

Then it occurred to me that lobster was the wrong crustacean. It was crab I wanted to try. Crab, after all, is home.

If the lobster roll is supposed to attract the widest audience to an otherwise expensive and inaccessible food, then I thought the crab roll should do the same thing. So I laid out some ground rules:

  1. Mayonnaise. Besides moistening the sandwich, it might be the condiment with the widest audience here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s easy to buy and requires no prep (unlike an aioli). Plus most of us have some sitting around the fridge.
  2. Dungeness crab meat. The lobster meat is the most attractive part of the sandwich. The crab deserves the same attention.
  3. Keep it simple. It’s about the crab, not the accents. It should be able to be put together in just a few minutes in just about anywhere in Cascadia, so long as crab meat is available.
  4. No hot dog bun or elongated bread. I might be reading too into this, but those shapes work for the lobster roll because, one, lobster meat is so chunky and, two, the lobster is itself an elongated bug. The crab, on the other hand, is a chunky bug with small bits of elongated meat. The circular bun seemed the best choice.
  5. But the bread must remain soft. To not distract the mouth from the softness of the crab.

After some deliberation with Lori, we decided on our first attempt at a Seattle-Style Crab Roll a.k.a. The Cascadian Crab Sandwich.

It Should Take Ten Minutes From Start to Finish

1 Kaiser roll
3-4 Tbsp. Dungeness crab meat (load it on there!)
2 Tbsp. Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Yellow corn (see caveat)
2 tsp. Celery, minced
1/2 tsp. Garlic chive (or chives), sliced
Lemon zest, to taste (or lemon juice)
Sea salt, to taste

Mix the mayonnaise and lemon zest together. It should be lemony but not overwhelming. Set aside.

Toast the bun. Get your other ingredients ready.

seattle crab rolls 01

(Caveat: we roasted the corn to give it a little crunch and bring out the sweetness. To do that, toss with a little oil and roast at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes.)

Slather the mayo on both sides of the toasted bun. Top with crab, corn, and celery. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on it. Finish with the chives.

Serve at any time of day with anything you want, preferably something potato-y. Get dazed and bleary-eyed by the luxurious trashiness.

seattle crab rolls 02

Photos by Lori Paulson

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