Gridiron Grub: Polenta Crab Fries

Starting Monday, you’ll hear all about the dining/debauchery that went on when the entire ES crew descended upon Philly for a weekend. To ease us into that, here’s a Gridiron Grub dish inspired by my favorite football-related Philly food stop: Chickie and Pete’s Crab Fries.

Chickie and Pete’s is a local restaurant that started in the late 70’s and has grown to include locations in all the city’s stadiums, Philadelphia International Airport, southern New Jersey and more. It sounds like a chain and out-of-towners grow even more perplexed by the fact that these “crab” fries don’t even contain crab. Despite this obvious omission, for locals they are synonymous with hot summer nights watching the Phils and cool fall afternoons with the Eagles. That being said, if you are not from Philly and you saw ES  put up a recipe about sprinkling some Old Bay on french fries, I know we would get even more complaints than we do about our potty mouths. So, here’s my updated take, with some much needed crustacean added in.

Polenta Crab Fries w/Horseradish Cream Sauce

Polenta Fry Ingredients:
2 c chicken broth
2 c  whipping cream
2 tbsps Old Bay
1 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (sometimes I add a little more if mixture is too wet)
9 oz canned crabmeat
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter or margarine


You can use instant polenta if you want, but for this recipe I went from scratch.

In a large saucepan, combine chicken stock, 1 c of cream and the butter and bring it all to a rolling boil. Reserve 1 cup of the cream and mix this separately with the polenta to prevent clumping. Slowly whisk in the polenta and cream mixture and then turn the heat down to medium low.  Slowly add  the flour and continue cooking and stirring until polenta is all incorporated and pulls from edge of the saucepan. At this point, mix in the parmesan, a dash of pepper and Old Bay before taking it off the heat and adding the crab.

This mix is a little stiffer than most polenta, but spread it out on a cookie sheet, smooth with a spatula and refrigerate for 50 minutes or so. You’re in the home stretch now and the polenta should be easy to cut into whatever fry shape you prefer. Spread some olive oil over each fry and pop them in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes, flip ’em, and  go another 10 minutes.

While the fries are cooking, you can whip up a quick horseradish cream sauce. To be honest, I always use Alton Brown’s Recipe.

In the end you can set out the fries, which will have tons of texture and Maryland crab flavor, along with a small bowl of the spicy cream sauce. Even if your team is playing as badly as my Eagles, at least the food will be good!

* You can also use fresh crabmeat if it is available for you but canned is fine for this dish. I tend to use the less expensive backfin crab meat here and save the claw and lump crab for other dishes since there is so much else going on in this recipe

(Photo: mollyjade)

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  • Dede October 8, 2011  

    This sounds so yummy- but what am I missing – concerning the flour? is it mixed with the cornmeal and then whisked into the liquid? Or later with the parmesan?

  • Borracho October 8, 2011  

    My bad Dede. The post has been updated but I add it right in after the cornmeal. It actually seems to vary between 1/4 c and 1/2 c but I look for the consistency I mentioned. I only add the flour when doing fries as well, I’ve always thought it helped keep things together and crisp up nicely though feel free to adapt.

  • gansie October 10, 2011  

    not that i would ever turn down an excuse for butter, but what’s “margarine pepper”

  • Jane December 5, 2011  

    Hey cool recipe. But seriously be careful. Pete does not like it when other people (even small businesses that don’t compete with him) use the words crab and fries together:

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