Since meeting in the famed kitchen of Brennan’s on Royal Street in New Orleans, Chefs Keith and Nealy Frentz have been showing their love for Louisiana seafood on a daily basis. In 2006, they opened their cozy restaurant Lola in a former caboose in Covington’s historic downtown, were named Chefs to Watch in 2009, and went on to be crowned King and Queen of Louisiana seafood. After finishing a renovation on their Lola space, they took some time to talk with us about one of the Bayou State’s summer obsessions: blue crab.
Q What do you like most about cooking with Louisiana blue crabs?
Compared to other crabs, Louisiana blue crabs have a consistently flaky, soft texture. It really adds another level of texture and flavor to any dish, and a few lumps of crabmeat make anything prettier. Here at Lola, if we put crabmeat on a dish, it’ll be a best-seller.
Q How do you use Louisiana blue crabs on your menu?
We use all Gulf seafood now, and our crab cakes are very popular. They’re full of jumbo lump crabmeat, and we panée them in butter instead of frying (because when you fry the crab cakes, they can taste too bready). We also have a beet and crabmeat salad dressed with a little bit of balsamic vinaigrette, mayonnaise, and grilled house-made focaccia.
Q Have you been crabbing before?
On vacations in Orange Beach, Alabama, we’ll put a few crab traps out because our daughter loves to see how many we can catch. We’ll get a few blue crabs, rock crabs, and some kinds of crabs we’ve never seen before. Over the week, we’ll catch five or so crabs, but we usually throw them back.
Q What tips would you give for cooking with crabmeat?
We always go through our crabmeat to pick out any extra shells or cartilage. It’s already been done before the meat’s packed, but you never know. That said, though, you’re always going to find some shell fragments, and it’s a sign that the meat is really fresh and not overly processed. Strange as it is, it can be a relief to find some shell because you’ll know that what you’re eating is really crab and not some kind of white fish in disguise.
Q What are a few other dishes that would work well with that stuffing?
The stuffing is universal, almost like a crab cake. It will work well with almost any seafood dish. For left overs, if there are any, you could stuff a bell pepper, fry it into crab balls, or even serve some with pork chops.
Q What flavors do you find pair well with crabs?
It’s salty and sweet, but, of course, not candy-sweet. Capers and lemon butter are always nice, but mushrooms and eggplant are great, too. We love that crabmeat complements but never overwhelms other ingredients.