Crab Claw Sensation

Hanley's Sensation dressing marinated with crab claws

The following is a post from Acadian Table.

These are well-dressed claws ready for your next party or holiday get-together. Just slide a cracked claw between your teeth and pull away a meaty morsel of crabmeat licked with just the right combination of spicy flavor. Time to create a Crab Claw Sensation!

Louisiana crabmeat creates a Crab Claw Sensation.

Louisiana crabmeat creates a Crab Claw Sensation. (All photos credit: George Graham)

And I’ve found an easy shortcut to this sensational recipe using bottled salad dressing. Four ingredients–count ‘em—four ingredients.  That’s it–dead simple. That is if you have access to Hanley’s Sensation salad dressing, and a seafood market with cracked blue crab claws.

Sometimes called cocktail fingers, crab claws are a Louisiana delicacy.

Sometimes called cocktail fingers, crab claws are a Louisiana delicacy and a key ingredient in my Crab Claw Sensation.

Here in South Louisiana, we’re lucky to live near the Gulf coast where blue crabs are trapped and harvested year round.  And many processors crack the claws and package them fresh in 1-pound containers.  Mine come from CNT Seafood down in New Iberia, Louisiana just a short drive from my home. They’re not cheap, but the extra work it takes to bring them to market makes these crab claws a bargain.

I’ve done a version of this dish before featured in my cookbook Acadiana Table – Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana. But here’s the difference with this Crab Claw Sensation: I’ve always prepared the claws hot under the broiler, and my recipe here features ice-cold marinated claws that is nothing short of sensational.  And the secret (and convenient) ingredient is indeed Hanley’s Sensation salad dressing.

There’s local history in this recipe, too. Sensation dressing is an old-school Louisiana menu item made famous by a landmark Baton Rouge restaurant Bob and Jake’s back in the 1960s and 70s. The recipe has been passed around from family to family and has even made its way into a few community cookbooks. It’s a zesty combination of olive oil and vinegar with lots of lemon and garlic and a cheesy punch of grated Romano. And my friend Richard Hanley has figured out how to bottle this little piece of Louisiana culinary history.

Hanley's bottles a line-up of dressings including their most popular Sensation.

Hanley’s bottles a line-up of dressings including their most popular Sensation.

My friend Richard Hanley grew up in Baton Rouge, and after a short stint working for my advertising agency as a graphic designer, he turned his culinary curiosity into a craft business. What started out five years ago as a small kitchen table operation with his wife Kate, Hanley’s has grown into a bona fide success story. Now, their line-up of seven bottled dressings is sold in over 700 retail stores throughout the South. But the best part is that they still hand-make each bottle of dressing with the help of the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator program.

Now, there are other dressings out there, or you could even make your own from scratch, but the nuance of flavor and the balance of spices in Hanley’s version makes my Crab Claw Sensation consistently delicious every single time.

Zesty flavors combine in my easy recipe for Crab Claw Sensation.

Zesty flavors combine in my easy recipe for Crab Claw Sensation.

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Recipe by:
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 1 pound cracked blue crab claws
  • 1 cup Hanley’s Sensation salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
  • ½ cup diced green onion tops
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the crab claws and toss with the dressing. Sprinkle over the seasoning and toss again. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
  2. Before serving, drain the claws of excess dressing. Sprinkle with green onion tops and toss once more before serving.
Prep time does not include marination time. I urge you to seek out Hanley’s Sensation dressing (I find it at Rouse’s) or order it from Hanley's website. If you want to scratch-make your version of Sensation dressing, there are several online recipes to choose from like this one from my friend Chef John Folse.
This recipe is not overly spicy so feel free to add more Cajun seasoning or even hot sauce to your taste. Be sure to add the crisp green onions just before serving or risk them wilting after a long stint in the marinade. Some folks might think a dipping sauce should accompany these claws, but it would only mask the fresh crab flavor delicately enhanced with this sensational dressing.

Hanley’s Sensation dressing makes this Crab Claw Sensation a cinch.

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