Friends shared some of their crab catch with us recently. (link) What do you do with a big batch of Dungeness crab? It’s surprising how much meat one large crab yields. Multiply that by several critters, and you have crab for a crowd, or several meals for two. There was no question about where to begin. Our first meal was fresh cracked crab, still warm from the steamer, with some melted butter and lemon. The next day we dined on crab Louis salads and crab quesadillas. Faced with one remaining cup of perfect, unbroken leg chunks, I was torn between grabbing a fork to munch my way through the entire pile, or being generous and sharing. I shared.
Crisped bread, crab and cheese are the basics for any crab melt sandwich, but they're also the elements of a crab pizza. This was an opportunity to try using a cast iron skillet to bake two small, individual-sized pizzas. I changed the method slightly for each one.
Initially I preheated the skillet in the oven, and then slid the assembled pizza into the oiled pan. Well, that was the plan. The dough didn’t slide well off the board and the crab and cheese tumbled around. I plopped the dough into the pan, put the scrambled toppings back on top and baked the pie for ten minutes at 400F. The top crust needed additional browning, so it went under the broiler for two minutes. Topped with some shreds of fresh basil it was pretty tasty. The dough was tender with a crispy bottom, and the flavors of both cheese and crab were discernible. The Capt. topped his with bottled cocktail sauce and pronounced it “surprisingly good”. High praise since he’s not usually a fan of crab + anything else.
For version two I put the same preheated and oiled cast iron skillet on a heated stovetop burner. I cooked one side of the dough until it browned slightly, about two minutes, and then flipped it over. The crab and cheese went on top and the skillet went into the oven for five minutes. One minute under the broiler to brown the crust and bubble the cheese and it was done. Topped with basil this version was good, but not quite as good as version one. I thought the crust was different, more cracker-like, a little tougher, more brittle than chewy. The Capt. said I was being picky and this version was just fine. He did suggest that in the future I apply cocktail sauce, similar to a tomato sauce on a meat pizza. (I don’t think so, not on my crab pizza anyway.)
I will keep tweaking the ingredients and playing with the method, perhaps try grilling it on the barbecue too. Crab pizza is here to stay, whenever there is extra crab meat in the refrigerator.
2 mini pizzas
One small grapefruit-sized ball of pizza dough (link)
Olive oil (Garlic and herb infused preferred)
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup fresh crab, picked over for shells
1 cup torn pieces of mozzarella (or fontina, provolone or jack cheese)
A small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn or sliced
Cast iron skillet, 8 to 10-inch recommended
- Place the cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 400F.
- Split the dough into two equal chunks and roll each into a ball.
- Place the dough on a board lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Press or roll out into rounds or squares that will fit into your skillet.
- Lightly oil the top of the disk of dough.
- Scatter a pinch of red pepper flakes across the top. Distribute half of the crab acrosss the top, shred as needed. Distribute half of the torn pieces of cheese across the top.
- Remove the preheated skillet from the oven and coat the inside very lightly with olive oil. Quickly and carefully slide the loaded pizza dough into the pan; return the pan to the oven.
- Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, or until browned. Check the bottom crust for color; add additional minutes as needed.
- If the top crust is pale, place under a broiler for 1 or 2 minutes until the edges are lightly browned and the cheese is bubbly.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle some basil on top; slice into wedges and serve with cocktail sauce alongside. Enjoy.
*I use a Bonita Atkins pizza dough recipe (link), but you can use your favorite, or purchase some premade at TJs, a grocery, a deli or an Italian restaurant.