ELLIE’S CRAB IMPERIAL – from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay

Hi there,

I want to introduce you to Ellie Lunsford. I had the pleasure of knowing Ellie when my children were school age. She and her husband, Bill, would pull into our small town in their huge Cadillac and make going to Grandparent’s day a party. They were to my son, Andrew, adopted grandparents. Andrew would hopeinto that car with their grandson, Rich, and off they would go to school to be followed by a lunch out at a place of their choice.

Ellie was a true lady from the south. She was from Reedville, VA, where crabbing and fishing were a big commercial industry. She exuded warmth, gentility, and hospitality. Ellie married her high school sweetheart. She moved “north” to Yankee territory after her husband, Billy, opened a fish processing plant outside Wildwood, NJ. She brought her southern ways, recipes, and her friendly southern accent with her.

Ellie had a delightful sense of humor. As she aged, she decided she would live life just the way she chose. Apparently one time Fran, her daughter-in-law, looked askance at one of those choices. Ellie told Fran, “I got my letter”. Confused Fran asked her what letter? Ellie replied, “the letter that says at my age I can do just as I please”. Now that we have reached that age, we understand the letter, and very often do as we please and explain to anyone who questions our behavior that we received our letter.

The following recipe was published in the Reedville Cookbook. A best seller in Ellie’s hometown of approximately 100 people.

Good manners and good food never go out of style.

Ellie’s Crab Imperial


  • 1 pound of backfin crabmeat
  • 1/2 tablespoon of chopped pimiento
  • 1/2 tablespoon of chopped green pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 3/4 cup of mayonnaise, plus additional 1/4 cup for topping
  • black pepper to taste
  • paprika for topping

Heavy Cream Sauce ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 5 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of drained capers
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Pick the shells from crabmeat
  3. Sauté pimiento and green pepper in 1 tablespoon of butter
  4. Make a heavy cream sauce by melting butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and stirring in flour, milk, and salt
  5. Stir until mixture is smooth and thick
  6. Add the sautéed vegetables, 3/4 cup of mayonnaise, and remaining ingredients to the sauce. Leave out the crabmeat, mayonnaise and paprika.
  7. Gently fold in the crabmeat taking care not to break up the big lumps
  8. Spread into a shallow baking dish
  9. Spread the remaining mayonnaise on top
  10. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes
  11. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with paprika

Special Note: Fran says she omits spreading the mayonnaise on the top of casserole.

I hope you have enjoyed meeting Ellie and her recipe for Crab Imperial as much as I have enjoyed bring her to you.

Talk soon, ❤️💕 Bernadette

31 responses to “ELLIE’S CRAB IMPERIAL – from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay”

  1. I know, crab meat is so expensive. But, Fran made this recently for a dinner party of 8 and she had some leftovers. It really streches.

  2. Fran made it for a dinner party she invited me to. We were 8 people and she had left overs. It would be a great dish around the holidays. Thank for reading.

  3. Bern, another great story and recipe. I know I’m going to make this. Crab imperial is one of Todd’s all time favorite dishes.

    • I am reading your book. So enjoying your stories. I married into an Italian American family and lived all the different personalities. Your book is rekindling all those happy times.

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. If you like this recipe, please give it to your friends.

%d bloggers like this: