Jazz music may be credited with originating in New Orleans, but it’s certainly moved up into North Carolina over the years. Jazz festivals are held across the state, like the Apex Jazz and Music Festival and Wilmington’s North Carolina Jazz Festival. Music festivals are always about the music, but you’ll certainly find some great food to go along with them.
For 30 years cooks at the New Orleans Jazz Festival have served a pasta dish named “Crawfish Monica.” Its creator, Chef Pierre Hilzam, named the dish after his wife Monica. Folks line up at festival time for a Styrofoam bowl of the dish, made from pasta and crawfish and topped with Creole seasoning. It has been voted a crowd favorite for years. But, that’s Louisiana, what about North Carolina?
I got to thinking and figured we need a jazz tradition of our own. While I’ve tried crawfish, sucking the innards from the heads of “bugs” just doesn’t appeal to me. I love the seafood standards, like fish, oysters and shrimp, but I prefer those fried. Our own pasta type dish would need something different, something more “feisty.”
Blue crabs are feisty. They’re also charming, entertaining, quick to defend themselves, and certainly much more appealing than crawdads. So now, let me introduce you to “Crab Annie,” our own jazzy Carolina blue crab pasta. I named the dish after my friend Annie, who is a bit feisty herself. She’s charming, interesting, and I find her sense of humor to be quite entertaining. She’ll quickly put up her dukes to defend herself, while side-stepping away from a real confrontation whenever possible. I just hope I never experience those red tipped female claws, if she doesn’t appreciate having this dish named after her.
Crab Annie, uses a very special blend of spices for a little heat. It’s best made with fresh blue crab, which can be a bit expensive, and a bit more time consuming. Feel free to use imitation crab meat or even shrimp if you must. Annie is very frugal– she wouldn’t mind.
I expect to see restaurants everywhere soon offering Crab Annie on their menus. It should also be available at all the North Carolina area jazz festivals, once it starts catching on. I just hope they’ll give me credit for it so I can score a few brownie points with Annie herself. I’ve got a feeling I might need them.
Crab Annie is a little bit spicy with pepper and Texas Pete Hot Sauce. Still, this version is mild enough that all the family should enjoy it.
Ready to give it a try? Then grab those claws and… let’s get cooking!
Crab Annie Recipe: You’ll need these ingredients plus some blue crab meat.
Blue crab in your kitchen sink can be fun to watch. These are some of the first that became available from the Seafood Crab Company and their Spout Springs Weekend Market this year. They were sort of small, and it would certainly take more than this to equal a pound of crab meat. While the dish is best when you can use fresh blue crab, substitutions can be made as needed.
PREP: Prep all the vegetables for this dish before you start. It goes together rather quickly once you start cooking the sauce, so you’ll need to have everything ready at the beginning.
You’ll also need to make the Crab Annie Seasoning Blend that is listed in our printable recipe before you start making the sauce. Measure out the needed spices, place them in a container, and give it a good shake to mix them up really good. You’ll need three Tablespoons to make our Crab Annie pasta dish, leftovers can be used to season other fish, seafood, or poultry dishes as desired.
Follow the step-by-step printable recipe (at the top of the page) to make the sauce. You’ll be cooking the onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes a bit before adding the Crab Annie seasoning blend and the heavy cream. Once it’s cooked down for a minute or two and allowed to thicken a bit, you’ll pour it over the cooked pasta and gently stir it all together.
Crab Annie is pure Southern charm… with a kick. She is “packing heat” but, we’ve calmed this version down enough that all the family should enjoy it. I can’t tolerate “hot and spicy” foods very well personally, but this one is still mild enough for my personal tastes.
In the printable version of the recipe at the top of the page, I’ve included a pretty good “copycat” of the Crab Annie seasoning blend that will still deliver the true taste sensations for the recipe. The “original recipe” contains secret herbs and spices, but you knew that it would, right? Hey, a fellow has to keep a few things secret sometimes.
Keep your eyes open for this jazzy Carolina pasta dish to start appearing on restaurant menus all across the East Coast real soon. I’ve already made the poster for it. Enjoy!
— Steve Gordon is a writer, recipe tester, and lover of all things Southern. You can read more of his writing and step-by-step recipes at tasteofsouthern.com. Click here to find more of his recipes.