She Crab Soup

Out of all the over the top savory dishes I make that might come out of a 5 star restaurant this one has to be the easiest to make.  Provided you can get all the ingredients.  She crab soup is a South Carolina favorite but it can be found in Georgia, Alabama as well as around Louisiana.  It is a personal favorite of mine and my younger brother Rick.  My children have come to love it too.  There are many variations on this dish but one thing they all have in common is that you can’t really call them “She crab” soup unless they have that ubiquitous roe from the female crab. And that ingredient is not easy to come by.  I get mine from the very kind people at Charleston Seafood who are very helpful and about the only seafood purveyor that has it – – and I do highly recommend them for their outstanding customer service.

Many recipes call for 8 oz of lump crab meat.  But I start with a lb.  You could add backfin crabmeat too for the small pieces but the standard recipe generally calls for 8 oz to 1 lb of the lump.

In addition to fresh crabmeat (the above has already been cooked) you need a few other ingredients.

Above I have some dry sherry, two large shallots, a pair of bay leaves and some mixed peppercorns (white, Telicherry, Malabar and some pink).  And lastly I have crab base there in the upper right corner – the stuff I have there is made from Dungeness crab and seasoned before it’s concentrated which is why my spice mix above is rather scant.  I also don’t like to add any salt at this stage (besides my base has some in it).

Above I have been sauteeing my peppercorns, bay leaves and chopped shallots in butter for about 10 minutes at medium heat before adding a cup of whole milk.  I’ll let that cook for a while (maybe 3 minutes) while I whisk that together and then you will want to strain all solid ingredients out of the milk broth.

The above solid ingredients can be discarded.  They’ve done their part and are no longer needed.  Pour the strained milk broth back into the pot.

At this point I aill add 1/4 cup of that crab base and a quart of half and half and whisk it well over medium high heat.  You will want to stir this often to avoid build up or scorching on the bottom.

I will mix 4 Tbs of corn starch with 1/4 cup of dry sherry and 1/2 cup of milk.  Whisk that together in a separate container until all of the starch is dissolved in the liquid.  Once it becomes a slurry with no lumps, pour that into your pot and whisk well.

After the crab, the roe is the most important ingredient if we’re going to call it “she crab” soup.  I like to take out 1/4 to 1/3 cup of this amber-gold treasure and break it up into my pot with my bare fingers.  Then whisk everything together well.  From a dining exploration standpoint that roe reminds me of a high end Bottarga without all the salt.  You get that crab-fish taste and a barely perceptible (And I mean barely – you have to be looking for it) faintly wax texture that you get with Sardinian Bottarga.  And that really pleases me and is one of the many reasons I love this dish so much.  If you’ve ever had food that had Bottarga with it in any shape or form, this dish will seem to have vestiges of that experience.  It did for me anyway.

When the soup starts to thicken because of the starch – I add two cups of heavy cream and whisk well.  The only ingedient left now is the crab meat.  You can wait to add it and divvy it up at the table and distrubute it among your diners, putting it in the center of the bowl for presentation which many restaurants do.  Or you can just add the meat and stir it in as I did.

See those little orange and yellow specs?  That’s your she crab roe and it does add some balance and extra character to the dish.  It adds a delicate crab flavor that distinguishes She Crab Soup from just an ordinary bisque.  You really want to make the effort to get the roe and not just for the right to use the “She” label.  Trust me it’s a different experience without it.  When serving you will want to make extra sherry and maybe some hot sauce available to your diners.  This is a very rich dish with so much history.  Some have it that President Taft was visiting Mayor Rhett in the early 1900’s when she-crab soup was created. They were dining at the John Rutledge House when Mayor Rhett asked his butler to create a fancier version of the Scottish recipe of partan-bree (or crab and rice). The butler simply added crab roe (crab eggs), making the soup creamier and therefore creating she-crab soup.

Now I have seen versions in restaurants that are more pinkish looking and I will tell you it’s not because of the crab roe.  Some restaurants will add tomato paste for color and to mellow the flavor some.  But I like sticking with the authentic recipe.  But you can do what you want with yours.  This is a fall or winter dish that you’d serve in the same fashion they do with Oyster Stew up North.

It’s a warming, heavy dish suited for colder weather and is a signature dish from the Carolina and Georgia coast.  To many of us Southerners it is a true delicacy.  I invite you to enjoy this recipe.

She Crab Soup (Serves 8 as a starter soup or main meal)


  • 1 lb lump crab meat
  • 1 large shallot chopped well
  • 1/4 cup crab base
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tabespoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 cups milk divided
  • 1 quart half and half
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4-1/3 cup blue crab roe
  • 1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 tsp chopped chives (optional)


  • In a stock pot, begin sauteeing the butter, peppercorns and bay leaves on medium heat for a few minures.
  • Add 1 cup of milk to the pot and whisk well.
  • Simmer for about 5 minutes to get the flavors out of your spices and then strain, keeping the liquid and discarding the solids.
  • Mix the sherry, 1/2 cup milk and starch together well to completely dissolve the starch.
  • Add the half and half and the corn starch/sherry slurry to the pot and whisk very well.
  • Add the crab base to the pot and whisk in well.
  • Agg the crab roe to the pot, breaking up lups with your fingers ehere necessary and whisk in well.
  • At this point I like to taste the soup and see if it needs anything.  It shouldn’t but you can add pepper or sherry as needed.  It should not need salt because of the crab base.
  • Cook a few more minutes whisking gently until the soup thickens.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Fold in your crab meat and stir gently.
  • Ladle into bowls and serve.  You can add chopped chives as a garnish.




Bottarga (Land Version)

There are as many condiments and seasonings in cuisine as cooks in the diverse cultures that use them.  And this recipe here is something new to me that I had to share.  I need to make one thing clear up front and that is that this is NOT my recipe.  This is a condiment created by Chef Jonathan Sawyer, owner of The Greenhouse Tavern restaurant in Cleveland Ohio.  Credit for this recipe goes to him.

How I heard about it was from my brother’s brother-in-law.  Chris Wiese and I share a love of finer condiments and haute cuisine.  And I know him because he is married to my younger brother’s wife’s sister.  I still consider Chris family to me as well. When I read up on the recipe he shared with me on facebook, I knew I had to make it and try it.

Now Bottarga is traditionally dried, salt cured fish roe.  Specifically either mullet roe sacs or tuna roe sacs.  I had to order the mullet one online and taste it once I started delving into this novel food topping from Sardinia.  The tuna veriety is a stronger, darker, more fishy version and I confess, I have not tried that one yet.  But the Bottarga made from mullet roe is delicious – similar to anchovies or Asian fish sauce in flavor.  Similar but NOT the same.  It has it’s own characteristic flavor profile.  It is truly stunning on pizza, pasta dishes and lord help me, even something as simple as a bologna sandwich.  Traditional Bottarga made with dried fish roe is no simple ordeal to make.  It takes several months in some cases where salt curing and pressing are part of the process.  So I buy that despite it being expensive.

But this recipe here uses no seafood and is rather simple to make.  I like to call it “Landlubber Bottarga”.  It uses chicken eggs as the main ingredient which get salt cured and smoked.

What you see above is salt that comes from the fermentation process of Red Boat brand Vietnamese fish sauce.  It is the salt that gets left over when the fish sauce dries on the outside of the fermentation vats.  I like to use a little of this with the kosher salt that is a primary ingredient in this condiment.  I confess this is the one thing I changed in Jonathan’s recipe is using the fish salt.  That is not part of his original recipe.

Here I have a container with about 3/4 cm of kosher salt where I have made some divots for the egg yolks and I have sprinkled some Red Boat fish salt into those divots.

After carefully seperating the whites from the yolks in half a dozen jumbo eggs, I delicately lay each one into one of the divots prepared for it.  If a yolk breaks during this stage unfortulately you cannot use it.  It will have to be discarded.  For this you need 6 yolks only without the whites.  I sprinkled some of the fish salt on each egg yolk carefully as well and quickly followed that up by covering them all with more salt.

After covering the eggs thusly with the salts, I cover the container and put it into the refrigerator and leave it undisturbed for 3 days.  What happens over those 3 days is, through osmosis, the eggs absorb all the fish salt and some of the kosher salt and the remaining salt draws moisture out of the egg yolks, drying them considerably.  So the yolks then take on a gummy, gelatinous consistency.

The yolks will have a crust of salt on them when they are removed from the curing tray and that salt needs to be removed.  We will prepare a rinse of natural apple cider vinegar.  I prefer the cloudy kind and pour about 1/2-3/4 cup of the vinegar into a bowl.

One by one, you will want to lower each egg yolk into the vinegar and gently stir to rinse off all salt crystals.  Do this for each yolk.

I apologize for the lack of clarity in this photo but you get the idea.  Rinse each yolk until all solid surface salt is removed.  I like to leave the yolks in the vinegar for 5 minutes so that some of that vinegar gets absorbed.  This will add some flavor to the egg yolks.

When all the yolks have been rinsed, they will have a glossy sheen from the vinegar.  It’s at this stage that they remind me of botterscotch hard candies that I gew up with.  From here, they need 3 more days in the refrigerator uncovered.  I keep them in a collander suspended above the shelf so that they dry on both sides.  You will want to flip each yolk once per day so that they dry evenly.

After the 3 days of aging in the fridge, you end up with semi-firm yolks like these which need to be smoked for their final flavor component.  You absolutely must smoke them.  I took a small taste of one at this stage and all I get is an eggy, salty taste that I wasn’t taken with.  So above I have some wood chips that I lit with a brulee torch and then covered, creating some air flow with the drain holes in these two terra cotta pots.

I let them smoke for about 10 minutes.  To be truthful, next time I do this I will use another pair above the apparatus you see here so that the eggs are in a separate chamber from the combusting wood.  While it didn’t get hot enough to cook the egg yolks, it was warmer than I would have liked.  But after 10 minutes in this makeshift smoker, the only step left is to age the yolks for 3 more days at room temperature.

Here are the 6 yolks after smoking.  The color is a little darker but they don’t get cooked by the smoldering wood chips.  The best wood to use for this is oak.

Here I cover the yolks with cheese cloth and age them for 3 more days at room temperature.

After the final 3 days of aging, the Bottarga is ready for use.  To use it, all we need do is grate it.  I have grated it over a paper plate here and it has the texture of a cured, cooked Italian cheese.  It is more like Asiago than Parmesan, having the softer of those two textures and it is very easy to grate.  I tasted this condiment straight as I had nothing to put it on and I was absolutely stunned.

This is truly magnificent and jaw dropping in deliciousness.  I am not exaggerating for effect here – this is a truly divine topping to flavor foods and is best used instead of traditional Bottarga on dishes that you might not want a seafood taste in.  My own test for this stuff was a simple bologna sandwich.

This grated, dried land caviar gave a smokey, salty, umami edge to my sandwich.  And tasting these grains straight is strangely addicting, making you want to keep tasting it again and again.  That smokey, salty taste is nothing less than habit forming and potentially more than addicting.  This find was truly revolutionary for me and for this I an very grateful to Chris.  Thank you Sir!!  I owe you one for sharing this with me!!

And here is the complete recipe:

Landlubber Bottarga


  • 6 extra large or jumbo chicken eggs
  • 1 cup kosher salt, divided
  • 6 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce salt
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup oak chips for smoking


  • Pour 1/2 cup salt into a coverable container and make 6 divots in that container.
  • Add 1/2 tablespoon of fish salt to each divot
  • Separate each egg yolk from the white with each egg and very gently rest each egg yolk in one of the prepared divots.
  • Sprinkle the second half of each fish salt tablespoon over each egg.
  • Cover al the eggs with the remaining half cup of kosher salt.
  • Cover the container and allow the eggs to cure in the refrigerator for 3 days.
  • After 3 days, rinse the 6 yolks completely in the apple cider vinegar in a bowl.  Allow the yolks to sit in the vinegar for 5 minutes after stirring to rinse.
  • Place the eggs on a wire rack or elevated collander and allow the eggs to age uncovered in the refrigerator for 3 more days.  Flip each yolk once a day so that they dry evenly.
  • After the 3 days, put the egg yolks on a wire rack.
  • Light the oak chips and get them smoldering.  I find that putting the wire rack between two flower pots with drain holes works best because it starts an upward draft air flow between the drain holes that keeps the wood chips smoldering and smoking.
  • Smoke for 10 minutes and remove the yolks afterwards.
  • Put the yolks on a wire rack and cover with a cheese cloth.
  • Age at room temperature for 3 more days.
  • Grate over food as needed.

Bon Apetit!!!


Prik Nam Pla

I thought I would add this recipe here for Prik Nam Pla since I will reference it frequently when I talk about serving Thai dishes.  To a Thai person, this condiment is like salt and pepper is here in the U.S. and is found on just about every Thai table.  Prik Nam Pla literally translated means spicy-hot fish water.  And even Thai households will have this sauce readily available at every meal to be spooned over a dish to add spice and saltiness.  It’s not just something you will find in restaurants.  This is very easy to make and keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  I have been known to keep it longer but it will lose heat if kept past that.  You will need at least 3 ingredients, 4-5 with the optionals.

Nam Pla Prik (Makes about 1 cup)


  • 1 garlic clove (optional)
  • 3 garlic (chinese) chive flower stalks.
  • 1-2 lime wedges (to taste)
  • Thai Chili peppers (as many as desired – to taste)
  • 1 Red Savina Habanero pepper (optional if you want it REALLY hot).
  • 1/2 cup of a good quality Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce.


You want the ingredients to be as fresh as possible though if you look closely at the picture above, you will see frost on my Thai chilis.  Yes, they were previously frozen so I cheated here.  I grow them all summer long (I’ll discuss that in another post) and freeze them for the winter.  I have a fresh Red Savina Habanero above as well (I do not recommend that unless you have an asbestos palette like I do – a result of having spent my childhood in Thailand).


  • Mince one garlic clove well.  Add to the jar or container that can hold 1 cup in volume.
  • Slice the garlic chives into 1/8″ slices.
  • Slice the peppers into 1/8-1/4″ sections depending on personal taste.  I like 1/8″ myself.  If you decide to add a habanero as I did, mince that well too.  Add to the jar with the garlic.


  • Squeeze as many lime wedges as desired (I prefer one wedge but some may want more citrus in their sauce).


  • Fill the rest of the way with the fish sauce and gently stir well.

I like to chill mine in the fridge for an hour to give the flavors some time to meld.


And below is a batch I made that has minced garlic chive flower stalks in it.  I’ve added that to my recipe here because I always make it like this way now because it drastically improves the flavor after it sits for 3-4 days..

And there you have it.  Over time you will probably make adjustments to your own recipe until you have it the way you like it.  This will be called for to be served with almost all recipes I provide here.