The Berghoff’s Crabmeat Au Gratin

Rich and creamy seafood gratins had their heyday in the ’60s and ’70s. One best-loved example recalled by Chicago recipe-requester Roberta Fireman was the crabmeat au gratin from The Berghoff restaurant. “The recipe was developed by one of our former chefs, who was Swiss,” said Jan Berghoff, former owner of the historic restaurant that her daughter Carlyn now runs as the Berghoff Cafe. Served only on Fridays, the dish was popular from the 1950s through the mid-1970s when increases in crabmeat prices and changes in diners’ eating habits made it prudent for the Berghoff to remove it from the menu.

Makes 10 servings

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup dessert wine, such as Sauternes or sherry
1 tablespoon chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 pound crabmeat
Grated Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt ¼ cup of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat; slowly stir in flour. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Stir in cream, salt and mustard. Cook, stirring, until thick, 4 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Melt remaining ¼ cup of the butter in a large skillet; add mushrooms and onions. Cook until mushrooms are browned, 3 minutes. Stir in wine; cook to reduce by half, 3 minutes. Stir in parsley. Combine this mixture with the cream sauce. Stir a small amount of cream sauce into the egg yolks in a small bowl; stir egg yolks into remaining cream sauce. Cook 5 minutes; let cool. Stir in Cheddar cheese and crabmeat.
  3. Divide mixture among buttered small ramekins. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs to taste. Bake until beginning to brown, about 20 minutes.

3 thoughts on “The Berghoff’s Crabmeat Au Gratin

  1. I finally made this recipe, mostly as printed. It certainly is high in fat! Upon reflection, I think that the cream sauce could easily be made with milk- I make cream sauce with skim milk all the time, with good results. The primary flavor ended up being that of the mushrooms, which I do not recall in the original at Berghoffs. I will reduce the amount of mushrooms in the recipe by at least half when I make it again. I substituted panko for the bread crumbs, which worked well.The recipe indicates that it provides ten servings. This would be true if you use small, round ramekins. But that would be adequate when you use the whipping cream in the sauce! I served it with steamed broccoli and steak fries.

  2. Glad you had success! This was the exact recipe from the Berghoff’s chef, given to me by Jan Berghoff–of course, there’s no knowing how closely they followed this in the kitchen. I think we all tweak and modify recipes to suit our tastes and dietary needs–so sure, make the sauce with milk and reduce the amount of mushrooms. Enjoy!

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