The Tannery’s Crab Crème Brûlée

by Kristin on October 14, 2011

“Every chef has a signature dish, and crab crème brûlée is mine,” said Paul Flynn in an episode of his recent TV show, Paul Flynn: Irish Food. “I was just rooting around among my books and recipes and magazines that I had and I found this old Mrs. Beeton recipe from the late 1800s. It was called potted crab and it was crab and cream and salt and pepper, and that was pretty much it, and some eggs just to set it, like a custard. And I thought, this is really interesting, but I wanted to jazz it up just a little bit and just add a little more piquancy into it.”

When you get the chance to go to The Tannery in County Waterford, you don’t pass it up if you can help it. And if you’re there, you don’t miss a chance to have their trademark dish. So it was that I found myself there last Thursday for a whirlwind trip for the launch of the new Cook with Avonmore website and cooking channel, which renowned Tannery chef Paul Flynn has contributed to for their Chef’s Corner. And even though I’d already had the crab crème brûlée once before, when I was there in April for the Waterford Festival of Food, I couldn’t resist having it again.

It’s the only dish that’s been on the menu since The Tannery opened, and with good reason — it’s a modern classic from one of Ireland’s best chefs. But even if you can’t have it at The Tannery, it’s easy to make at home. It’s also a perfect starter for a dinner party, since everything can be made in advance and it all looks impressive on the plate.

Paul sums it up neatly when he says, “As with all the good things, it’s very hard to invent things, but also the best things are the simplest things.” Try it for yourself and see.

The Tannery’s Crab Crème Brûlée with Pickled Cucumber and Melba Toast
adapted from Paul Flynn via The Afternoon Show and Paul Flynn: Irish Food

Serves 4 as a starter

“Any time you have something creamy, you need something sharp to offset it. This is why we serve pickled cucumber with this dish. You need something to cut through the cream, and the pickled ginger is the starting point of that,” says Paul Flynn. One of the keys to this dish is its lovely creamy consistency, so keep an eye on your oven temperature: “You put it into a low oven because you don’t want the eggs to soufflé, you want them to gently set, like a custard.”

400 ml (1 3/4 cups) cream
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped (or grate it directly into the custard mixture with a Microplane grater)
2 tablespoons pickled ginger, drained and finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
150 g (1 cup) picked white crab meat, finely chopped
50 g (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan
pickled cucumber, to serve (see recipe below)
Melba toast, to serve (see recipe below)
lemon wedges, to serve

Place the cream in a bowl with the eggs, garlic, pickled ginger and some salt and pepper and mix well. Add in the crab meat, ensuring there is no shell, and mix well again. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge to allow the flavours to infuse for at least 30 minutes, but ideally up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).

Ladle or pour the mixture into the ramekins, making sure you get an even amount of crab in every ramekin, as the crab tends to fall to the bottom. Place the ramekins in a roasting tray. Fill the tray with warm water until the water comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Place this bain marie in the oven and cook for 45 to 60 minutes (check after 40 minutes). When cooked through, the mixture should be set but still have a slightly wobbly consistency. Remove the ramekins from the bain marie and allow to cool — the crab crème brûlée should be served at room temperature.

When ready to serve, sprinkle a very thin layer of Parmesan on top of each ramekin and brown under the grill. Serve with pickled cucumber, really thin Melba toast  (“sort of a retro addition that you don’t see very often”) and a lemon wedge. “So there you have it,” says Paul. “The Tannery crab crème brûlée – my classic.”

Pickled Cucumber

1 cucumber
pinch of salt
50 g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
50 ml (1/4 cup) white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sweet chilli sauce

Slice the cucumber as thinly as you can (a mandolin or food processor’s slicing attachment is perfect for this job). Place the sliced cucumber in a bowl and sprinkle with a little salt. Set aside.

Bring the sugar, vinegar and chilli sauce to the boil and reduce for 30 seconds. Take off the heat and allow to cool completely. Once it’s cool, pour the liquid over the cucumbers and stir gently to coat them all. This will keep in the fridge for 2 or 3 days — any more and the cucumber loses its colour.

Melba Toast

Toast slices of white bread and remove the crusts. Slice the bread laterally to make two slices that are half the original thickness of the bread. Rub off excess bread from the untoasted side, then cut diagonally into triangles. Place the untoasted side under the grill until the edges curl.

The Tannery Restaurant
10 Quay Street
County Waterford
+353 (0)58 45420

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Ailbhe October 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

God I love this dish. Like you I had it at the Waterford Festival of Food and was wowed by it (to be honest was wowed by most that I ate that weekend especially at Paul’s two ’3 Chefs’ nights). Delighted to see it here. Should keep me happy until I can make a return visit to The Tannery Thanks : )


Kristin October 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I only wish I had stayed more than just one night during the Waterford food festival – I was kicking myself after reading your blog posts and Niamh S’s posts too about all the other amazing events and meals that I missed. I won’t make the same mistake twice! Will you be going again next year?


Imen McDonnell October 14, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I have yet to try this! I ADORE The Tannery….will try the crab brulee on our return. Lovely post Kristin…thanks for sharing =) xx


Kristin October 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Be sure to get it the next time you’re there, you won’t be disappointed!


Sheila Kiely October 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Now that you’ve done all the research Kristin you’ve made it more than possible for me to give this a go at home : ) Can’t wait to try.


Kristin October 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm

You’ll love how easy these are to make at home – though I have to admit they’re not quite as delicious as the original in the Tannery itself!


Liza in Ann Arbor October 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I wish we did more starters in the US. This one looks delicious.


Kristin October 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm

It’s really lovely, give it a try the next time you’re having a dinner party. I love that you can make everything in advance, and no one will ever guess how easy it all is.


nessa robins October 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Kristin, this sounds and looks delicious! I was really sorry to miss out on that day as I thoroughly enjoyed Paul’s show. I’ll make it my business to visit the next time we’re down south.


Kristin October 20, 2011 at 7:24 pm

When I was there for the Waterford food festival, a big group of us had lunch there and we couldn’t believe what good value it was – if memory serves, it was around €30 for a three-course lunch in one of Ireland’s best restaurants, including a glass of wine.


Móna Wise October 20, 2011 at 7:39 am

I have eaten at the Tannery a few times and my husband loves this dish. The Chef from Kai here in Galway makes one that rivals Pauls but it is different in its own style and flavour.
I think I still prefer crab cakes but have some crabmeat in the fridge and might print this out and hand it to the chef and see what happens :0) I am not sure how I missed this post? AND I love that teal blue colour. It reminds me of my favourite crayola crayon ….


Kristin October 20, 2011 at 7:22 pm

I like your subtle hinting style, Móna! That teal blue colour is my favourite, it makes me happy just to look at it. Plus it matches my Le Creuset Dutch oven. :)


Eimear October 21, 2011 at 10:59 am

We’re all at the Tannery recreations – I just did the Bacon & Butterbean Chowder. I think I’ll have to physically restrain myself from making it too often…


Kristin October 21, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I just blogged about it yesterday too over at my other blog: It’s crazy good, isn’t it? I can see myself making it often this winter. And Shelia, the other blogger there that day, just blogged this recipe from the site today:


TheGlutton October 26, 2011 at 9:08 am

This sounds absolutely amazing I love both crab and creme brulee!! Definitely putting this on the list of ‘to do’s :)


Sean M May 23, 2012 at 11:58 pm

This is one of my favourite dishes although I had it in Carlingford, (twice).


Kristin May 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm

What restaurant is serving it in Carlingford? I love PJ O’Hare’s up there. It’s hard to beat sitting in their beer garden with a plate of oysters and a cold drink on a sunny day.


Jo June 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I am making this for a dinner party Saturday….does anyone know if you can cook it by steamer rather than in a Bain Marie ?


Kristin June 20, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Jo, are you on Twitter? If so, try tweeting @TanneryDungarva and asking their advice (it’s their recipe). Good luck!


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