Carvel Grant Gould’s She-Crab Soup with Hot Butter Crackers

Photograph by Iain Bagwell
Photograph by Iain Bagwell

Carvel Grant Gould—a seventh-generation Atlantan whose ancestors include railroad baron Lemuel Pratt Grant, who donated the land for what became Grant Park—grew up immersed in Buckhead’s food world. No baby shower or Christmas party was complete without platters of cheese straws and chocolate eclairs from Henri’s Bakery. When she turned eighteen, Gould made her society debut at the Patio by the River, which was built on the banks of the Chattahoochee using bricks from a nineteenth-century distillery. She never imagined that one day she would be the executive chef at the restaurant on that very spot.

But her strongest recollections stem from the Piedmont Driving Club, where her family have been members for decades. The she-crab soup, a favorite of her mother’s, inspired the version Gould often serves for brunch at Canoe. “I never got their recipe; I just remember those flavors so well,” she says. Crab roe (which you can special order from Star Provisions or Sawicki’s in Decatur) and a liberal dose of Old Bay seasoning are as essential as the lump crabmeat. “The real trick, though, is the cream sherry,” says Gould. “I use it at the beginning to deglaze the pan, and also at the end, so you get two dimensions of alcohol flavor, both raw and cooked.” To honor the memory, she pairs the recipe here with a quirky country club staple: hot buttered saltines. They originated in the early 1970s at the Capital City Club when a chef ran out of oyster crackers, and they grew so popular that other country clubs adopted the idea.

She-Crab Soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups cream sherry, divided
1 quart fish or chicken stock
2 cups water
1 ounce crab roe
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning, or to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 pounds lump crabmeat
Salt and white pepper, to taste

Hot Buttered Crackers:
1 cup (2 sticks) lightly salted butter
1 sleeve saltine crackers

1. Make soup: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat; add onions, celery, and garlic, and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add 3/4 cup cream sherry and raise the heat to bring to a low boil; reduce liquid by half. Add stock, water, crab roe, and 1 cup of the cream. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, and keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, make a blond roux: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes (do not let brown). Pour the roux into the stock mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until the soup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes.

3. Stir in salt, Old Bay, Worcestershire sauce, and 1/4 cup of the cream sherry. Working in batches, transfer mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

4. In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat remaining 1/2 cup cream with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cream sherry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, divide crabmeat among 6 to 8 bowls. Ladle soup over each serving. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Serve with extra cream sherry on the side.

5. Make crackers: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, skimming off white foam until clear and golden. Place crackers in a large bowl. Pour warm clarified butter over crackers and toss gently. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake 3 minutes. Serve warm. (Makes 35 to 40 crackers.)

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

This recipe originally appeared in our November 2012 issue.