M: Origins in the exotic Caribbean? Nope. Total fake out. So often, the origin of a recipe sits in dispute? Did Brunswick stew come from Virginia or Georgia? Are fried green tomatoes a creation of the Midwest? Well, for once, we know exactly where this one came from. With a name like West Indies salad it can only be from… the gulf coast of Alabama?
When Bayley’s Steak House opened in 1947, owner Bill Bayley had an idea. With a steady supply of crab meat available in the area, he was looking for a new way to serve it that would distinguish his restaurant from the others in the region. Thus was born the West Indies salad.
Why West Indies? Nothing more than a fleeting thought to make the menu item sound more exotic. The offering was a smashing success and restaurants throughout the region copied his tangy creation. The name stayed with it.
The original Bayley’s Steak House closed in 1986 (Bayley’s son reopened in the iconic restaurant in the mid-90s in a new location), but the regional favorite has persevered.
So simple. So good. The tang of cider vinegar and subtle bite of chopped onions brightens beautifully, while still allowing the fresh crab meat to lead the way. I don’t care what some Alaskan Whiting might tell you, the flavor of fresh crab is inimitable.
The ice water is an elegant way to keep the crab meat uniformly chilled and supple. Make sure to heed the step in which this is to be chilled for some hours be serving. it makes a difference.
Recipe: West Indies Salad
Summary: The name may be a fake out, but the crabby goodness and tangy undertones of this Alabama creation ring true. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook
- 1 Medium Onion, chopped
- 1 Lb Fresh Claw Crabmeat
- Salt and Pepper
- 1/2 c Vegetable Oil
- 1/4 c Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/2 c Ice-Cold Water
- Spread half of chopped onions into a shallow serving dish.
- Scatter crabmeat over onions and top with remaining onions.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle with oil and vinegar.
- Pour ice water over all, cover and refrigerate for 2 to 12 hours.
- Toss, then re-season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve cold.