Crab Claw Bordelaise

Fingers or Claws?
the only thing that matters is the taste...

The dish today has been wandering around in my head for some time now. Why, I’ve mentioned it to so many of you, I hope you are not tired of me yapping about it. Gwen, you are always on the road taking your readers at Bunkycooks along for interesting road trips. I am glad you are heading back to NOLA soon, I hope you try the Bourbon House’s version of this dish, that is the one that kinda got me kick-started in wanting to make this. Homer and everyone at work, thank you for my endless going-ons, I appreciate ya’ll nodding your heads every once in a while. But most importantly, special thanks to my good friend, Cajun Chef Ryan, who is always there to help and follow up with correct procedures and his knowledgeable wisdom of great southern cookery.

Chef Ryan worked at the historic Columns Hotel, upper Garden District in New Orleans, which featured Crab Fingers Bordelaise on the menu or as he refers to them as the Crabfinger Special Appetizer.  He shared his notes from 1985 as follows:

“In oven proof round dish lay out crab fingers, and then ladle out garlic/shallot butter, sprinkle with bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and salt and white pepper mix. Finish with chopped green onions.” He also adds that left out of his notes is the obvious, to place in the oven and bake until warmed throughout.

Now that is exactly what I needed to get me going. The thing I just love about southern Bordelaise is that it demands you to sop it up with crusty French bread, New Orleans style of course. That is the way I remember having this dish years ago over there. Big ol’ meaty crab claws swimming in a buttery garlic and green onion induced sauce but with just a hint of wine and lemon undertone that brings home a Bordelaise in true southern fashion. Think of the taste as a really good scampi recipe and multiply by 10. 

Now we say crabclaws in my parts as that’s what we call them in Mobile, some folks say fingers and that’s okay. But it’s a claw, the upper pincher of the crab where some of the sweetest meat lies waiting to be plucked, maybe that’s why dem claws are always a’snapping. The bottom jaw of the claw is removed and the shell is peeled away leaving a meaty claw-ette, as in a little drummer. These today are a little smaller than I prefer, but still mighty tasty.

So without further rambling I’m listing two recipes for this dish. First, in the truest form is one like Chef Ryan’s, which consists of a simple compound butter using garlic and green onions and finished with a little red pepper, lemon and Parmesan. The other version, one I created to more resemble my experience is somewhat the same but with a reduction of chicken stock and white wine. Enjoy!

New Orleansness Crab Fingers Bordelaise
makes about 4 appetizer servings

1 stick butter
4 garlic toes, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 pound crab fingers
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Grated Parmesan cheese

For the butter compound, simply fold butter at room temperature with the garlic and minced shallot together, put aside until needed.

The dish comes together quickly as explained by Chef Ryan.  Place the compound butter in a sauté pan over a medium high heat. When hot, add the crab fingers and bring to a light simmer. Add the cayenne, salt and lemon juice. Toss until heated thoroughly. Add the green onions and transfer to an oval ramekin, add the Parmesan and breadcrumbs on top. Place in a salamander (broiler) to brown the topping.

Note: the original Column’s Hotel version did not mention cayenne or lemon juice.

Mobile’s Crab Claw Bordelaise
for 4 appetizer servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
6 garlic toes, peeled  and smashed
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
1 cup white port wine or sherry
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot
4 garlic toes, minced
1 pound crab fingers
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 green onions, thinly sliced

Start by making the Bordelaise reduction sauce. In a medium sauce pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking add onions and garlic, reduce heat to medium and stir until onion softens, about 2 minutes. Add the two wines and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Cook until liquid reduces to about 2 tablespoons, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and boil until liquid reduces to about 1/2 cup, about 35 minutes. Pour sauce through a fine sieve into a bowl pressing on the solids to release all viable liquid. Set aside sauce and discard solids.

Heat a skillet over low heat and melt butter. Cook until all bubbling action stops and skim the foam from the top. Pour away the clear butter from the solid part left at the bottom of the pan which will be just a little bit. The clear butter is the clarified butter needed for this dish. 

Wipe the skillet of the milk solids and return pan to medium high heat. Add clarified butter.
Add the shallots, minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the crab claws and sprinkle with the Creole seasoning. Toss and shake the claws around in the pan to cook evenly for about 2 minutes. Add the reduction sauce and lemon juice. Sprinkle the green onions on top and bring to a simmering boil reducing heat to low just as it starts to boil. Toss claws to meld ingredients together. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the sauce is slightly velvety in appearance. Remove from heat and divide claws and sauce into four bowls.

Serve with toasted French bread slices for dipping and sopping this wonderful southern Bordelaise sauce.

Note: This light Bordelaise sauce is great on pasta, chicken, oysters and escargot which, by the way the name changes to Bourguignionne Sauce for some reason or 'nother.


  1. Oh my! Mu grandfather was 100% Cajun, and we grew up eating a lot of creole food. That looks awesome!

  2. I love Chef Ryan's stuff. I haven't visited there in a long time because life's gotten hectic. Once it's back to normal (Dudette is in school), I think it'll be a bit easier. This looks fantastic. I love anything in bordelaise! I've not found crab claws in a container before. I HAVE to find them.

  3. Drick….holy cow……this may be better than your creamy seafood and pasta we love so much. C’mon pay day because we HAVE to try this!! Kudos to you and Chef Ryan on this one.

  4. I say crab claws too! They aren't fingers if they can pinch like that! This sounds amazing ... I bet it would be great with some Maryland blue crabs! And your description of the sauce also reminds me of the BBQ sauce at Mr B's. Oh ,slurp do I want some of that with a hunk o French bread!!!!

  5. Oh My>>> such a bounty! Love this post, and your verbiage is spot on. fantastic descriptions.

  6. Mamma mia!!!!! This sounds so good! Can`t wait to try it!

  7. Claws my friend, the hurt! This is so awesome I shared on Google+. Welcome :)

  8. I like the crab claws that inspire you to make dishes like these, oh and crabs don't have fingers that I've ever noticed!! Please pass the bread;-)

  9. hello yumminess!! two great recipes, thanks your so generous. Claws ahh my mom's favorite!! bookmarking these for when she visits, soon I hope!

  10. Holey moley! Both of these recipes look mighty fine. The claw is my favorite part of a crab.

  11. I've been having a crabfest lately. This goes my ever-loving crab claw being - gorgeous, delicious and now I wait for the Gulf truck to bring me fresh crab claws.

  12. Is it bad that I want this for breakfast? Or even better, do you have any leftovers in your fridge? You may find me at your doorstep! Amazingly good looking food here!

  13. Hey Drick, your research has landed you a wonderful plate of tasty crab claws. So glad to see this dish recreated in your kitchen! Which reminds me...I need to find me some fresh crab claws.....soon!

    Bon appetit!

  14. The are both great looking recipes...I tent to lean towards the sherry and wine though ;) They both do look amazing though! And I have never heard the term crab fingers before...claws to me.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts