Spanish in origin, devilled crabs are crab meat croquettes. They are a regular Latin American delicacy served at dinner tables in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. Traditionally, the meat is slow cooked, sautéed in a hot seasoning, and deep fried as a food roll in breadcrumb coating. A unique Cuban-styled enchilada sauce, popularly known as ‘chilau’ and extreme in terms of its spiciness, lends the ‘devil’ tag to the dish’s name.
It is said that devilled crabs originated in the Latin American immigrant community of Ybor City in Tampa Bay in the wake of an ongoing cigar factory strike in late 1920. Since Cuban bread was cheap and blue crabs plentiful in the waters of Tampa Bay, they became important staples for the workers. A combination of those ingredients led to the birth of crab meat croquettes, which started selling like hotcakes on pushcarts and bicycles along the Tampa coast sidewalks.
Then you have to…
For the crab
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. On the side, mix the crab meat with breadcrumbs, onions, celery, butter and cream. Season it well with mustard, salt, parsley, cayenne, sweet green pepper and mix well. Once the oven is prepped, spoon the mixture into crab shells or separate dishes in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
As a snacking option, deep fry the mixture till golden brown.
For the glaze
Combine all the ingredients in a small pot and let it simmer over medium heat. Keep stirring for 20 minutes or so, until the glaze turns 1/3rd of its original volume. Let it cool. Pour it over the crabs and serve.
Thoughts of sultry, greasy summer days make us all uneasy.