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Crab. Dungeness Crab. When you grow up on the West Coast, the two terms are synonymous. And how to use that sweet, cool crab? Well, the most elegant way was Crab Louis, also known as the King of Salads. This crab creation first appeared on the West Coast around 1910, but its origins are not known. Claims for Crab Louis run from Seattle to San Francisco.

The one sure thing is that this dish, not commonly served now, is always taken as a special treat. In this holiday season, it’s a wonderful dish for a party or your family. It can be a salad or the main course. This recipe from Northwest native Cynthia Nim’s Crab is very traditional. Over the decades the salad has often been amended: slices of avocado are a natural addition, or some cooked shrimp, or … Use your imagination!

The salad is famous both for its pure use of crab and for the Louis Dressing. If you can, use homemade mayo, ketchup, and hot sauce to make this delight your “personal crab specialty.” Have all the ingredients thoroughly chilled before you begin to assemble the salad Be sure to serve it, as recommended, on chilled plates with the crab cold out of the fridge. One of the treats of this dish is the iciness of every bite.

Iceberg lettuce was once the only lettuce in most supermarkets. Now, it’s pushed the side as everyone grabs for that Romaine or some exotic green. Remind yourself has wonderful iceberg can be and do use it in this salad.

If you relish crab, then Crab by Cynthia Nims is a slim book crammed with ideas to enjoy every rich bite. Brunch ideas, apps, soups, sandwiches, salads and main courses are all there for you to savor.

Classic Crab Louis

Yield: Serves 4


For the salad:

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, cored, leaves separated, rinsed, and dried
  • 8 to 12 ounces of crabmeat
  • 4 eggs,hard-cooked, peeled and quarter
  • 2 small tomatoes or 4 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch wedges

For the dressing:

  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup chili sauce or ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf [Italian] parsley
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash hot pepper sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the dressing, combine all the ingredients except the salt and pepper in bowl. Stir to mix. Season to taste and refrigerate [covered, of course] until you are ready to assemble your salad.

For assembly, on 4 chilled plates, arrange a bed of 1 or 2 of the large lettuce leaves. Cut the remaining lettuce into thin shreds and pile it evenly in the center of each plate. Pick over the crabmeat to remove any bits of shell or cartilage, and arrange it over the shredded lettuce, saving any large leg or body pieces to perch on top. Arrange the egg and tomato wedges evenly around the crab, on the lettuce base. Spoon a bit of the Louis dressing over the crab, putting the rest in a serving bowl for your guests to sample. Serve immediately.

Source: Crab by Cynthia Nims