You’ll have to claw your way to the seafood aisle in order to enjoy today’s food holiday. September 25 is National Crab Meat Newburg Day!
Crab Newburg evolved from Lobster Newburg, a dish invented by sea captain Ben Wenberg, who had become quite wealthy thanks to the “fruits” of his labor. Literally: he was involved in the fruit trade between Cuba and New York. When Ben wasn’t sailing the high seas, he enjoyed dining at Delmonico’s in NYC. One day he walked in and announced he’d discovered a new way to cook lobster. Charles Delmonico brought him a chafing dish, and he cooked the lobster at the table. Mr. Delmonico was so impressed with the end result he added the dish to his menu and named it in Ben’s honor, Lobster a la Wenberg. It became a big hit with diners, but was removed from the menu after Delmonico and Wenberg got into a skirmish over something, and Ben was banned from the restaurant. Patrons still demanded the dish, so Charles simply rearranged the letters – “Wenberg” became “Newberg” – and added it back to the menu. Creative chefs began substituting shrimp, frog’s legs, and crab in the dish, and for some reason these alternate versions dropped the second “e” in favor of a “u” to make it Newburg. We’ll always remember you though, Ben!
The timing of this holiday was fortunate, considering the leftover Dungeness crab we’ve got from our wedding weekend. We simply had to defrost that, extract the meat, and follow this recipe. What gives the dish its distinct flavor is cream and sherry. Actually, we were out of sherry, but substituted vermouth instead (left over from our martini challenge). I loved this meal, and couldn’t get enough of it! Tara wasn’t quite as impressed, but still enjoyed it.