It's April, which means invitations to weddings, engagement parties, bridal luncheons, and baby showers are flooding my mailbox. Being the proper southern lady, I'm obligated to put on my pearls, brush my hair, and show up with a smile on my face and gift in my hand.
I may secretly be wanting to crawl out of the nearest window, but there is always one thing that keeps me coming back for more. That's good food, and lots of it. The ladies-who-lunch crowd don't mess around when it comes to hosting a swell party. Knorr's spinach dip, chicken salad sandwiches, and ambrosia are guaranteed to make an obligatory appearance. (Hey, no complaints here!)
One of my all-time favorites is the West Indies Salad. It's the ultimate ladies lunch. The zesty crab salad originated in Mobile, Alabama by Chef Bill Bayley in 1947. For years the recipe remained a well-guarded secret until it was later outed in a Mobile Junior League cookbook. Once revealed, the recipe's popularity down South spread like wildfire. And why not? It's light, make-ahead, and always a crowd-pleaser.
So whether you are entertaining for ten or two, I highly recommend this girly delight. Just don't forget the saltines! Served with a few mimosas? Well even I might start playing pin-a-tail-on-the-baby...
1 pound (16 ounces) fresh lump crabmeat
1 small sweet onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup ice cold water
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Scatter half of the chopped onion in the bottom of a serving bowl. Add half of the crabmeat. Layer remaining onion followed by remaining crabmeat.
Combine canola oil, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and cayenne and whisk thoroughly. Pour over the crabmeat and onion mixture, followed by the ice water. Press mixture down gently with a spoon. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Serve on a pile of butter lettuce with saltine crackers. Garnish with sliced lemons and oranges, if desired.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)