The Crab Pretzel
Q. How can a restaurant charge $10 for a soft pretzel?
A. They make it a crab pretzel!
In the past year I've noticed restaurants and bars around here in south central Pennsylvania promoting an appetizer called a Crab Pretzel. I had been wondering what all the fuss was about so I finally tried one.
A Crab Pretzel is a stadium soft pretzel, so huge it covers an entire dinner plate, topped with creamy crab dip, sprinkled with cheese, and then broiled or baked until hot and golden.
The sweet crabmeat, creamy flavorful sauce, gooey cheese and the chewy/crisp pretzel are a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. It was so large and filling that three of us shared one. This is a fun appetizer or snack to serve at home while watching movies or a sporting event.
This dish originated in Baltimore (where else?), then became popular all over Maryland, and has now crept north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Since my first Crab Pretzel I’ve tried several different versions at restaurants in both Maryland and Pennsylvania, with widely varying quality. The version at Silver Spring Mining Company, who claims it is the originator of this creation, seems to be the best, loaded with crab and very flavorful.
I wonder if Crab Pretzels are popular or even known elsewhere. This appetizer is such a clever and interesting twist on the soft pretzel that I can almost imagine the national chain restaurants and bars picking up on it and adding it to their menus as the latest new appetizer fad. Watch out, wings! Here comes the Crab Pretzel.
Although on further thought, I’m sure the chains would scrimp on the quantity and quality of crab in an attempt to improve their bottom line, ruining the dish. And fresh crab is not readily available everywhere. No, this is best kept a regional dish.
This recipe is from one of the two restaurants claiming to be the original creator. For optimum results, this should only be made with fresh Chesapeake Bay crabmeat. Don’t even bother using canned crabmeat.
"Original" Maryland Crab Pretzel
From The Silver Spring Mining Company as found at http://www.thewbalchannel.com/
and modified for clarity of instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cream cheese in oven for several minutes, until softened.
Place cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and add Old Bay, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco and blend until smooth. Fold in crabmeat. Place mixture in a piping bag with a large round tip. Pipe mixture evenly over pretzel(s).
Top pretzel with shredded cheeses. Bake in oven until desired color and crispness
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk, turned into caramel toffee (see note below)
3 – 4 ripe bananas
3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners (powdered) sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Chill a medium bowl and the beaters of an electric mixer in the freezer.
In a small bowl stir together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Stir in the melted butter with a fork until evenly distributed. Press crumbs firmly and evenly into a pie dish. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Bake until pie shell is firm, golden, and fragrant, about 10 – 15 minutes. Cool.
Prepare whipped cream topping:
Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small heatproof custard cup. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften.
Place all but 3 tablespoons of the cream in the chilled bowl. Add the sugar and instant espresso. With chilled beaters, beat until the cream holds a very soft shape. Let stand briefly while you melt the gelatin.
Place the cup of softened gelatin in a little hot water in a small pan over low heat and let stand until the gelatin dissolves.
Remove the dissolved gelatin from the hot water. Quickly stir in the reserved cream and immediately, with the mixer running, add it to the whipped cream. Continue to beat until the cream is stiff, but do not overbeat.
Assemble the pie:
Spread the caramel toffee evenly on the bottom of the pie crust.
Cut the bananas in half and then slice again lengthwise. Arrange bananas, cut side down, in a single layer on top of the toffee, cutting the pieces to fit as necessary. I like to start by laying a banana piece along the outer edge of the pie, with its curved side following the curve of the pie dish. Then I continue that way around the pie in concentric circles, cutting banana pieces to fit as necessary.
Spoon half of the whipped cream topping over the bananas, making sure to cover all the bananas (this prevents them from turning brown). The remaining half of the whipped cream topping may be spooned over in decorative mounds and swirls or piped through a pastry bag with a decorative tip.
Allow to chill for several hours before serving.
Note: To quickly and safely turn a can of sweetened condensed milk into toffee caramel sauce, use a pressure cooker. Remove the labels from a few cans (may as well do a couple at a time), place in a pressure cooker and cover with water by two inches. Seal cover and bring to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pressure to decrease naturally. Cool cans to room temperature before opening.