“Crab Delights in my grilled cheese sandwich?!”
I remember seeing that particular line in an ad for Crab Delights I read in a really old (circa late 1980s) issue of Better Homes and Gardens. The idea of putting seafood in a grilled cheese sandwich (another treat I found exotic at the time; I was eleven and my mom made a go of making those gooey, cheesy treats at home) was a regular eyebrow-raiser. But it was a notion I didn’t try to do on my own until recently.
Crab Delights – formally known as Louis Kemp Crab Delights – are a product of the American company Trident Seafood. These are, essentially surimi (seasoned and processed fish-paste, commonly made with Alaskan pollock ) made to look like shelled crab claws, legs, or just plain flaked crabmeat. With real crab meat fetching exorbitant prices these days, it’s not surprising that Crab Delights and their Asian counterpart (the crabstick) are used even by really good restaurants instead. Not that anyone’s complaining, really, but I digress…
The thing about adding crabsticks to a grilled cheese sarnie is to give the sandwich a pleasant sweetness that goes beautifully with the salty sharpness of whichever cheese you’re using. In a classic grilled cheese, orange-hued American processed cheese slices are used, so the surimi plays sweet and keeps the sandwich from becoming overwhelmingly salty.
Truth be told, however, I’ve never been that big a fan of American processed cheese. My cheeses of choice for grilling tend to be more exotic: smoked Cheddar if I’m fixing it as a tartine, kesong puti (fresh carabao’s milk cheese) or goat’s chevre if I want a slightly funky sharpness and an almost fluidly creamy texture, Edam if it’s just after Christmas and I’m stuffing in a few slices of Yuletide ham along with it. For this particular culinary experiment, I opted for a locally produced sharp Cheddar (I got mine from Pan de Manila.) and a generous sprinkle of bottled Parmesan.
As for the bread, any good commercial sliced loaf will do. In this case, though, I cut slices from a sesame loaf (we get ours from Shopwise) – because it was what was in the fridge at the time.
Fried in butter, the assembled sandwich looks beautifully golden and gets all nice and crisp around the edges, making a beautiful crunch with each bite taken. The cheese does not cook into a gooey mess, but goes all soft and creamy. The flavors are well-balanced: the nutty taste of the bread playing off the sharpness of the Cheddar, the sweet-savory taste of the crabstick balanced harmoniously by the salty Parmesan.
On its own, it makes for quite an eye-popping breakfast. Paired with a good bowl of proper tomato soup for lunch, however, it becomes a rather sublime meal.
Midge’s Special Double Grilled Cheese
- 2 slices bread
- 6 thin slices sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 crabstick, sliced into thirds lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
- 1-1/2 tablespoons butter
Place half the Cheddar slices on one slice of bread. Lay the crabstick strips over the cheese and sprinkle with the Parmesan; cover with the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining slice of bread.
In a medium-sized frying pan, melt the butter and cook over medium heat till bubbly. Add the sandwich; fry on one side, pressing to flatten it and for it to crisp up, about a minute. Flip the sandwich over and cook for an additional 30 seconds or till the other side has crisped up, as well. Immediately transfer to a serving plate.