Imperial Deviled Tofu

A fact about me: I’m from Baltimore, hon. Which means that although I haven’t eaten a crab in 20 years, I know that if you don’t put Old Bay on them, you aren’t doing it right. It also means that I miss eating crabs from time to time. Not so much any more, in fact, they kind of gross me out these days, but I totally miss crabs more than, say, steak.

So when I was rooting through some old family stuff and came across a newspaper clipping for an Imperial Deviled Crab recipe, the gears in my brain started churning. Could I? Possibly? Should I even dare attempt to veganize a recipe chock full of seafood, cream, butter, and eggs?!

Yes! Yes, I should!

I’m not sure how old this clipping is but I’m nearly certain it came from The Baltimore Sun. It says it’s the Rennert Hotel’s recipe and originally came from a book called Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Maryland by Frederick Steiff published in 1931.

Here’s the original recipe in its quaint little imprecise format:

Simmer the flakes of 2 crabs and 1/2 a chopped onion in butter, season with salt and cayenne pepper, add 2 cups of thick cream sauce, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoonful of English mustard, a little chopped chives, bring to a boil and bind with the yolks of 2 eggs. Add a little green and Spanish pepper chopped fine. Fill crab shells, spread a little French mustard and a sprinkle of bread crumbs over the top. Place a small piece of butter on each and bake in the oven until brown (15 to 20 minutes). Serve with lemon.

My first challenge was the crab itself. I had a block of homemade tofu that needed to be used today or else, so tofu crab it was. But I didn’t want to spend all day marinading it in something to make it taste seafoodish. So I did the following, which was all just on impulse more than for any thought-out reason.

Tofu Crabmeat

The only tofu I had was already in the pot cooking so I had to use a stand-in in the ingredient photograph.

1 lb tofu (pressed unless it is homemade and very firm)
4 cups water
1/4 cup dulse
1 Tbsp MSG (I got this idea from the UnSeafood recipes in Simply Heavenly!, but you can just omit it)
1 tsp kelp powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Old Bay
1 tsp dry mustard

The reason for the Old Bay is Old Bay is necessary for crabs, period. The reason for the mustard is there is this stuff in crabs called the “mustard”, which looks and I guess tastes sort of mustardy (and what it really is is pretty gross), so mustard just seemed appropriate.

Anyway, put all ingredients except the tofu into a pressure cooker and bring to a boil. Cut the tofu into four slabs as depicted in this photo:

Put the tofu into the pressure cooker as well …

… and bring up to pressure, then cook for 20 minutes. Bring the pressure back down by placing the pot in the sink and running cold water over it before removing the lid. Remove the tofu …

… and dice it.

At this point I felt the texture of the tofu was interesting, but maybe not quite as firm as I wanted it. So I microwaved it for two minutes, which did seem to firm it up a bit.

The funny part about making the tofu crab is I didn’t tell Mark anything at all about my intentions. He had no idea what was in store for dinner. But he came into the kitchen while the tofu was in the pressure cooker and exclaimed, “Are you cooking crabs!?” So it sure smelled authentic! That might be because crabs smell like Old Bay, of course. But with the seaweed as well, it did smell very seafood-y and crabby. And since olfactory senses are very tightly tied to the sense of taste, that’s half the battle right there!

The next step was making the “thick cream sauce” mandated by the recipe. I’m not a big lover of rich, heavy cream in savory dishes (or even sweet dishes for that matter). Fettucine Alfredo and the likes just aren’t for me, so I don’t really have a go-to recipe for heavy cream sauces. What I did have on-hand was some MimicCreme because I use it in ice cream. So here is what I threw together for the “thick cream sauce”:

Thick Vegan Savory Cream Sauce

1 Tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups unsweetened MimicCreme
1 tsp vegan “chicken” bouillon

In a small but heavy pot, melt the margarine. Then whisk in the flour to make a roux.

Add the salt and the MimicCreme, whisking constantly until completely smooth. Bring to a simmer and add the bouillon. Continue whisking until smooth and thickened.

Okay! With those two hurdles out of the way, I was ready to embark on the real adventure!

Imperial Deviled Tofu

1 large shallot or 1/2 onion, diced
1 pound tofu crab meat (recipe above)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chives, chopped
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/4 cup pimento, diced
1 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 recipe thick vegan savory cream sauce (recipe above)
egg replacer for 1 egg (I used En-R-G)
1 cup bread crumbs (I used panko), divided
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
sweet paprika, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

My cast iron skillet is a getting a workout lately, isn’t it?! So…in a large skillet, heat a small amount of oil or margarine, then add shallots or onion and fry for a minute. Add the tofu “crab”, salt, and cayenne pepper, frying until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the chives, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, green pepper and pimento.

Fry for 2 minutes. Add the cream sauce.

Bring to a simmer and add the egg replacer. When it thickens, stir in 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs.

Remove from heat and divide amongst two ramekins or other individually-sized serving dishes. Top each with half of the remaining bread crumbs, spread each with 1 Tbsp of the dijon mustard, and sprinkle each with paprika.

Cook for 20 minutes or until brown and crispy on top.

And here it is plated:

Verdict from Smark? Well, he’s busy killing something in World of Warcraft tonight, so he’s eating down in his man-cave. He came up to get a helping of the crab dish and took a bite before going back down. “It’s really good,” he said, “but not as good as what you made Saturday night.” Well, I could handle that, I thought. Mark doesn’t lie, at least not convincingly, about my food, so if he said it was good, I figured it was good enough to post here.

But guess what? Before I had even finished photographing my meal for you and sitting down to eat myself (with Tigger and a book), Smark resurfaced, announcing, “This was so good I need a second serving!”” he said. “Are you revising your earlier opinion?” I asked. “Yes! The ‘crab’ is really, really good! It tastes like real crab – I think. The texture is great!”

So with that, I think it moved into the realm of “would make again”. I might try to perfect the tofu crab recipe. Since I make my own tofu, I’m thinking I can infuse it with seafoody flavors while I’m making it. Sounds like a pretty fun experiment, eh?

By the way, one of Tigger’s favorite places to sleep is Mark’s laptop bag. It’s his little nest.

I’m really lucky I married someone who loves Tigger as much as I do.


  1. Aunt Lynn Said,

    August 26, 2008 @ 6:51 am

    The end result looks good enough to eat even though I don’t like tofu. Of course, everything tastes good with Old Bay on it, a belief for which I am often mocked.

  2. Cindy Said,

    August 26, 2008 @ 9:06 am

    Please say you’re opening a restaurant!!!!!!

  3. Jennifer Said,

    August 26, 2008 @ 9:45 am

    I am seriously amazed at how you put together a new recipe. Your thought process is incredible and creative!

    Did Tigger’s nose tell him that crab was cooking? Maybe you could fool him into eating it. I’ve been able to fool my cats with tofurkey. 🙂

    Great job!

  4. mark Said,

    August 26, 2008 @ 10:46 am

    yes, open up a restaurant, I want to quit my day job.

  5. Dad Said,

    August 26, 2008 @ 11:25 am

    You are most creative. I’m not sure where you got that quality, certainly not from me. I’ve heard of Deviled Eggs. And I’ve heard of Imperial Crab. In fact I love Imperial Crab. However, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Imperial Deviled Crab. In any event it looks good, and based on my prior experience with your cooking, it probably tastes good. Say, perhaps I could make a dinner reservation at Renae’s Restaurant following next year’s Deutsche Marque Concours. It should be the first Sunday in May, as usual.

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