This is one of those fantastically retro appetizers that is always welcome on any snack table. Sure, all the veggie platters, with those slightly sharp radishes, crunchy carrot sticks, broccoli and cauliflower florets, and the humble, somewhat ignored celery sticks, are good for us. They are the way we try to justify having the artichoke dips, chips and pretzels, chicken wings etc. But who are we kidding? We don’t just want to see a veggie platter at the table, as that football game or movie is going to start. We got together with friends to have FUN. Veggies are good for you, tasty, and perhaps mildly amusing. But FUN? No, we eat them because we know they are good for us. But we WANT the nachos, the pizza, the dips.
And this kicky Harissa Crab and Cheddar Dip is happy to step up to the plate. When the weather turns cooler, we crave the creamy, warm, even cozy dips to snack on. There’s something so decadent and yet reassuring about these types of snacks. And now with entertaining season coming into full swing, this is the type of appetizer that will work in more formal settings as well as the casual ones.
I remember as a kid, on a Friday or Saturday eve, my parents would put the rippled potato chips into a bowl, and if we were extra good, the sour cream and onion dip was added to the table. Remember that dip? In the small, round brown tub? I think back then, there was even a recipe that called for one package of dried Onion Soup mix added to sour cream and cream cheese or mayo. Or something like that. Everyone loved chips and dip. And we ate it up. So much so that even as I write this, I am nostalgic and slightly desirous of that very dip!! But I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the memories seared into my mind and heart: dad in his Lazy Boy recliner, us girls sitting on the floor near the table where the chip bowl and dip were, and my mom in her spot on the couch, knitting or crocheting away. The movie may have been “The Ghost and Mr Chicken” or “Apple Dumpling Gang” or even “Dr Zhivago” but the special thing was that we were all together, so content. And the treat of that dip.
While I probably would eat that dip today with a certain amount of guilty pleasure, the dip that I go to these days is this crab dip. It has the onions, but so much more. The heat of the Entube harissa, the tang and ooze of the cheddar cheese, and the glorious crab meat. All wrapped up in a creamy mixture of sour cream, mayo, cream cheese and parmesan cheese. Hmmm, a lot of cheese. Oh well. I’m not saying we should eat this every week. But I contend that if we’re sharing this with friends, how much are we really getting? A minuscule amount. To the point that it’s a crime. So make double. Just kidding!!
This makes a good amount: I’d say a good 3- 3 1/2 cups. So its perfect if you have a good crew of friends over. It’s rich, so I will totally understand if you serve it with veggies! (See first paragraph) But it works really well with sliced warm baguette, or seed crackers etc. It calls for almost one pound of lump crab meat. Depending on where you source it, this can run a pretty penny. So feel free to swap out half or two thirds of the lump crab for shredded crab meat which is less expensive.
And after writing that this will feed a hungry group of friends and family, you may only want to serve half of it. I’ll be honest, I’ve been known to freeze the other half. Yes, I have, and it thawed just fine. Let it thaw, put it into a baking dish and add fresh shredded cheese on top, and honestly, you would never know that it had been in the freezer. And if you do try this, how grand to know that there is a decadent appetizer ready to go, to make up for the veggie platter that you know someone else is bringing.
Harissa Crab and Cheddar Dip
A decadent, creamy, cheesy, and spicy crab dip perfect for any crowd of hungry friends.
- 2 tsp EV olive oil
- 3 tbsp red onion minced
- 8 oz cream cheese room temperature
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese divided
- 1 tbsp fresh chives chopped finely
- 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1-2 tbsp Entube Harissa paste to taste, start with 1 tbsp and move up
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 12 oz cooked lump crab meat if necessary, replace half of the lump with less expensive canned crab meat
- toasted sliced baguette or seed crackers or even veggies
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Use a veggie spray to lightly coat a 4 cup oven safe baking dish and set aside. (You want to ensure that the dip doesn't reach the very top of the baking dish. The filling is only about 3 cups. But as it bakes, it will rise and bubble over if too close to the top)
In a small pan add olive oil and heat at medium-high.
Sauté the red onion until it is softened and lightly golden.
Remove from heat to cool.
Combine the sautéed red onion, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, chives, lemon juice, harissa sauce, and salt in a bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon until well combined and creamy. (Alternatively you can do this in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment)
Gently fold in the crab meat.
Spread crab mixture evenly into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until lightly brown on top and bubbly.
Serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers or veggie sticks.
I have successfully made this, and only heated half to serve, freezing the other half. This may have some turning in their graves, but really, the thawed portion with freshly grated cheese on top baked up just fine.
I state that this will feed 10. This is true if it is one of only a few appetizers. If there are several other options, it will go further, or you may want to prepare less.