Wine & Food

    How to make Crab Thermidor: the summer dish inspired by a French play

    10 August 2020

    Oliver’s Crab Thermidor is something to shout about and well worth the effort of making at home: rich, hugely indulgent and a must-have summer treat.

    Like many recipes we now consider to be “classics”- the original Lobster Thermidor was created in the late 19thcentury in Paris at a restaurant called Maison Maire. The dish was named after a highly controversial play called Thermidor by French playwright Victorien Sardou. It was notorious at the time and gave instant popularity to the dish. When we put our own version of a Thermidor on the Gladwin Brothers restaurant menus this month it was as instant a hit as it was 130 years ago. The play is long forgotten but the recipe lives on.

    To accompany the Thermidor you need little more than some very fresh salad leaves, dressed simply with Rapeseed oil, Lemon juice, Salt and black Pepper, then gently tossed. Our great friend Jochum grows lovely organic Lettuces, Rocket, Chicory and Radicchio in a market garden right alongside the livestock farm. He and others like him literally toil the land on their hands and knees-hand grow the best natural salads and vegetables. They sell them in local farmers markets; it is well worth seeking out and paying a little bit extra for all that flavour.

    For our part, Gregory is very good at doing a countryside deal –swapping a little tractor work or some fine pork sausages for a supply of delicious salad leaves straight out of the ground.

    Literary inspiration: Crab Thermidor

    Crab Thermidor

    Serves 6


    6 x 150-200gm dressed crabs (in shells – from your local fishmonger)

    40g unsalted butter

    1 shallot, finely diced

    40g plain flour

    100ml fish stock (using a cube is fine)

    50ml white Wine

    25ml Brandy

    100 ml double cream

    1 Tbsp. lemon vinegar

    ½ tsps. English mustard

    2 Tsps. chopped Fresh Tarragon




    2 Egg Yolks

    3tbs panko breadcrumbs

    40g grated Gruyere Cheese

    • Scoop the Crabmeat out of the shells into a mixing bowl. Clean out the shells and place them on a baking sheet ready to refill.
    • Place the Butter and Shallot in a heavy based pan over a moderate heat. Cook for 2 minutes, stir in the Flour and cook for a further 2 minutes
    • Slowly stir in the Fish Stock, Wine, Brandy, Vinegar and Cream
    • Bring to the boil then season to taste with Mustard, Tarragon, Tabasco, Salt and Pepper.
    • Take the sauce off the heat and allow to cool until you can hold your hand against the side of the pan. Now beat in the egg yolks.
    • Pour half the sauce over the crabmeat and mix together. Spoon the crab evenly back into the shells then spoon the remaining sauce over the top. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and grated Gruyere.
    • Bake in a pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 mins at 200c until the Thermidor is bubbling and nicely browned.
    • Serve with a side of fresh salad leaves just dressed with a little Rapeseed Oil and lemon juice.

    The Gladwin brothers foraging on the beach

    Richard’s Wines to Match

    For a classic French dish like Crab or Lobster Thermidor, the obvious pairing is fine White Burgundy but this can be eye wateringly expensive! If that is not a problem, I suggest you go for the better known producers- all too often a wine you expect to be amazing because of the price tag ends up a bit disappointing.

    I am therefore going to concentrate on some more unusual alternatives.

    Oaked Chenin Blanc from South Africa

    Chenin Blanc is originally from the Loire Valley in France but it has a 350year history in South Africa and is their leading white grape variety.  Best from older vineyards in the Western Cape Region- a well made Chenin Blanc with careful use of Oak is a really delicious drink- Good acidity with lasting honeyed peach in the back of the pallet

    Albarino, Galicia, Northern Spain

    For me, one of the best accompaniments to seafood is Albarino produced at the northwest tip of Spain and in parts of Portugal. It captures traces of the salty sea breeze – botanical nose, vibrant with orchard fruits and an attractive gentle bitterness that cuts the richness of the Thermidor.

    Maldovian Chardonnay

    This is a fairly quirky suggestion but eastern European countries such as Moldova have great wine making heritage and produce some really outstanding rich buttery Chardonnays well worth searching out.

    There, I have managed to recommend 3 different wines without even mentioning our own fine English wines from Nutbourne in West Sussex