Friday Fish: Crab Chili

Looking for St. Patrick’s Day Ideas? Just plug “St. Patrick’s Day” into the search window and find my favorites including Irish Soda Bread with Potato Soup, Salmon on Colcannon, Colcannon Soup, Traditional Kerry Apple Cake, and more.


 Chili has to be among the most favorite and iconic American meals. Yet when I check that out, I find regular old, B-flat chili — the kind many of our mothers made and we still make year-round — doesn’t come up on the list. Green chile is there and so are flat enchiladas and fajitas.  But I truly don’t know anyone, from nearly non-cooks to chefs–who doesn’t have some sort of a pot of chili in their regular repertoire. There are simply now many, many sorts of chili because it soothes the soul and makes us feel rich, full, and as if there’s just plenty eat around here. A good way to feel.

above:  More Time’s Pumpkin-Black Bean Chili

Besides pot roast, chili is probably one of the top slow cooker and INSTANT POT recipes online.  You do this, right? Wait, let me check and see if I can figure that out.  Here’s one list.  No chili exactly. I’ll look at another one. White Chicken Chili figures in the top 10 slow cooker meals on, many cook’s go-to for into.  So not exactly as I’d figured, but close.  While I’ve worked on many IP recipes in the past year, and have made beans, I’ve yet to try chili. Next on my list!


above–late winter images: my 7-year old pink geranium in bloom and a pesky fellow I stayed way behind on the street yesterday

Like you, I have a basic chili I make all the time, especially come winter. And since we’re still waiting for winter to make an appearance here… Haven’t we talked about this before?! Then there are variations depending on what’s in the freezer, pantry, or on sale. Just put “chili” into my search box on the blog or even into GOOGLE and see.  My good friend and tasty cook, Drew Robinson (who did the wine pairings for my soup book), makes lobster chili when there’s a special occasion like the annual Christmas party he throws with his wife, Jill. (see below) It’s a bit above my heat level index, but I eat it anyway with a Zantac an hour beforehand. No idea what the recipe is or where he got it (maybe he’ll share it), but I’ve had it on my radar since Christmas because it sticks with you.

The lobster chili idea floated around and then finally morphed into a crab chili idea…and I don’t know which I like better, lobster or crab. Neither are terribly regular guests in my Colorado kitchen, given our distance from an ocean, but they show up occasionally. Over a period of days or even weeks, I kept dreaming about what a crab chili’s profile might be. I’d never had one, but, boy howdy, I wanted one. Drew was my inspiration definitely, but my dish needed to be, to my mind, a hybrid of a seafood stew and regular old chili.  It could be hot, it might feature green chilies, or it would be neither. And so it was; so it came to be. There are the fennel and bay, which are typical seafood soup or stew ingredients and there are white beans reminiscent of Chicken White Bean Chili.  Leeks and onions both play a role, and garlic rounds out the stew along with a tiny Louisiana nod to the NOLA holy trinity, which includes green bell pepper. Not too much green bell pepper or things will turn bitter.  Just enough for flavor.  You might sub jalapeño if you roll in that direction. Chili powder? Cumin? Yep, definitely. The crab is stirred in right at the end, as it’s already cooked and doesn’t need to stew in the pot. A freshly chopped salsa of cilantro, green onions, and green pepper serves as a crunchy garnish along with creamy, extra-sharp cheddar. Intensely satisfying, unique, and maybe something you’ve never made either, I surely hope you try this for Friday fish or any other time. We liked green onion corn muffins with this dish.  Steal my recipe for a really fast chili:


4-6 servings

There’s a gentle heat in this chili, but it’s not really hot. If you’d like less heat, skip the crushed red pepper and/or use a mild chili powder. I used Penzey’s medium.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • Small onion, finely diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, well-washed, sliced thinly and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely dice
  • Small fennel bulb, cored, and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground coriander and ground cumin
  • Small handful chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups cooked white beans — Great Northern or Cannellini (15 ounce can drained and rinsed or from scratch)
  • 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked lump crab meat or 2 drained 6-ounce cans of crab
  • Green Onion Salsa for garnish (recipe below)
  • Grated extra sharp white Cheddar cheese for garnish

GREEN ONION SALSA:  3 tablespoons each minced green onion, green bell pepper, and fresh cilantro stirred gently together

In a 6-quart heavy pot with lid, heat oil over medium heat and add the pinch of crushed red pepper, cooking for 30 seconds.  Tip in the fresh vegetables:  onion, leeks, celery, fennel, garlic, and green pepper. Season with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, the chili powder, coriander, cumin, parsley, and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring, 6 or 7 minutes, without browning.  Pour in liquids — clam juice, broth and water–along with the beans and drained tomatoes. Cover and bring to a boil; taste and adjust seasonings. Cook 20 minutes or until everything is quite tender.  Stir in the crab; heat through and simmer a few minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot with garnishes. Whoever gets the bay leaf does the dishes.

Store leftovers immediately and tightly covered for no more than 48 hours.

{printable recipe}

WINE/BEER: Oregon Pinot Gris or Italian Pinot Grigio. Maybe even a dry Riesling from Washington or NY. Mexican beer will make quite a few folks cheer for you.

DESSERT:  Dulce de Leche ice cream


WHAT I’M READING:  The current issue of Fine Cooking (April/May, 2018) features one of my favorite cooking teachers and cookbook authors, Patricia Wells. You can pick up a copy if you like OR here’s  A preview of the video (you must subscribe online to view the entire clip) and a glimpse of my heroine.

WHAT I’M DOING: Getting ready to teach a 2-hour ITALIAN EASTER DINNER March 23 in downtown Colorado Springs at First Congregational Church as part of their “Healthy Living Program.” If you’re nearby and want to go, leave me a message in the comments and I’ll get the deets to you. Booklet with recipes included.  Of course we can’t cook the whole shebang in two hours. I’ll bring a dish or two done or nearly done, we’ll talk thorough some, and we’ll actually make a couple of others that will have you singing a little Italian love song before you leave.


I’m so glad you’re spending more time at the table; thanks for reading. Come back soon, please?

Sing a new song and make a new chili!


8 thoughts on “Friday Fish: Crab Chili

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