I caved. After a flurry of effusive smoked cream cheese photos on social media, I needed to explore the hype--and try that smoky cheese.. Enter lump crab. With a crispy, cracker crumb crust and a creamy, decadent base, this dip is perfect for a party snack, appetizer, or tailgate. (You can smoke the cheese up to 3 days in advance, then cook the dip on your grill over indirect heat.) You will absolutely need something crispy (sturdy crackers, toasted bread) to slather it on.
An Important caveat: many of the posts I read suggested smoking cream cheese for 2 to 3 hours! That’s too much smoke on a mild cheese for me. I didn’t want to overpower the sweet flavor of the lump crab; so I smoked mine for 35 minutes and it had just the right amount of toasty, smoky nuance. I strongly suggest smoking an extra block of cream cheese, because you’ll want to slather it on bagels and tomato sandwiches.
Hot Crab Dip with Smoked Cream Cheese
Serves 6 to 8, as an appetizer
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 teaspoon Fish Monger seasoning, divided, plus more for serving
- Butter, for greasing skillet
- 1 pound fresh lump or jumbo lump crab meat
- 1/3 cup grated sharp white cheddar
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably Duke’s)
- 1 tablespoon Creole (or whole grain) mustard
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed
- 2 scallions, trimmed and minced
- Hot sauce (such as Crystal) to taste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to finish
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- ½ cup crushed Ritz crackers (from about 15 crackers)
- Crackers or slices of toasted bread
- Cucumbers, radishes and/or other vegetables as desired
Prepare your grill for two zone cooking and build a medium high fire. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, clean and oil the grill grates. Place a drip pan with 1 inch of warm water on the side of the grills with no coals. Add a few wood chunks to the periphery of the fire. Place the cream cheese in a small disposable aluminum pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon Fish Monger seasoning.
Close the grill and vent the grill for smoking. When the fire begins to produce a steady stream of smoke, place the cream cheese on the grates over the drip pan. Close the grill, and smoke for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cheese has a lightly browned exterior and silky, slightly molten texture. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes.
While the cream cheese smokes, grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the crab, white Cheddar, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, scallions, hot sauce and the remaining ½ teaspoon Fish Monger seasoning; use a fork to thoroughly combine, and then use a rubber spatula to fold in the smoked cream cheese (including any oil and spices in the container). Taste for seasonings and adjust the mixture with salt, pepper, hot sauce or lemon juice as desired.
Transfer the crab mixture to the prepared skillet and smooth into an even layer. In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan and crushed crackers, and then sprinkle the mixture over the dip. Place the skillet over indirect heat and bake for 30-35 minutes (rotating the skillet half way through cooking), until the crab is warm and lightly bubbling and the top is golden brown. Cool briefly, top with a final sprinkling of Fish Monger and serve with crackers or grilled bread, and vegetables.
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Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe.