Bayou Teche is one of the most important waterways in Louisiana. It is an ancient riverbed of the Mississippi River before it changed its flow several thousand years ago. Bayou Teche runs over a hundred miles before it empties into the Atchafalaya River, another former route of the Mississippi. The bayou served as the watery route of entry for the Acadians from Canada during their forced migration into Louisiana. The bayou flows through the heart of Cajun country, including some of its most famous towns and cities. Breaux Bridge is well-known for its zydeco, dance halls, and crawfish. St. Martinville is quaint and home to great Cajun food. New Iberia is close by Avery Island, the home of the famous Tabasco Sauce. So, with a name like “Crabmeat Teche,” this dish must be pure Cajun.
The original recipe comes from the classic, “River Road Recipes” first published by the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Junior League in 1959 and self-described as “The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine”. Many of the recipes reflect the times, calling for canned mushroom soup, flavored gelatin, and lots of convenience foods. At the same time the book is a trove of honest-to-goodness Louisiana recipes, and for that reason you can usually find a copy of the cookbook in most Louisiana homes you visit.
The recipe for Crabmeat Teche was contributed by Mrs. Roy Dabadie. I guess she lived in Baton Rouge at the time, but with a name like that, I shouldn’t be surprised if she originally hailed from someplace along the Bayou Teche. The recipe used some of the convenience foods of the time, so I have made some small revisions. Nonetheless crabmeat Teche is still a 1950s casserole, but it tastes a lot better than tuna noodle bake.
You’ll need a fresh vegetable to complement the casserole. I made a simple salad to go with it: sliced seasonal tomatoes, sprinkled with chopped fresh basil, coarsely-grated mozzarella cheese and your favorite vinaigrette. It seemed to be an ideal foil for the rich casserole.
- 1 large bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons bacon drippings
- 4 slices very dry toast (dry enough to crumble easily)
- 3 cups fish stock or chicken stock, divided
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon celery salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, pulverized between your hands
- Louisiana hot sauce, to taste
- ¾ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 pound can crabmeat, picked over for shells
- ¾ cup cracker crumbs
- 3 tablespoons butter
- In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sauté pepper, onions, celery, mushrooms, and garlic in bacon drippings until tender, about 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, crumble the dry toast in 1½ cups of fish stock. When the stock is completely absorbed and the toast crumbs have softened, add them to the skillet along with Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, celery salt, and oregano. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently until well combined. Adjust flavoring with hot sauce to taste.
- Add the parsley and remaining 1½ cups of fish stock, stirring until well combined.
- Add crabmeat, and mix thoroughly. Then pour the mixture into a well-buttered casserole.
- Sprinkle the top with cracker crumbs, dot with butter, and sprinkle with paprika.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350° in the middle of a pre-heated oven. IF casserole is made ahead and refrigerated, increase baking time to 45-60 minutes.
Serves 4 to 8, depending upon serving size