Susan Spicer’s Crab Salad With Avocado

SUSAN SPICER IS such a pillar of the New Orleans culinary community that she inspired a character on the HBO series “Treme.” Once, though, she was a young cook starting out—first as an apprentice to French chef Daniel Bonnot at Louis XVI restaurant in New Orleans, then in Paris, under chef Roland Durand. In 1982, back in New Orleans, Ms. Spicer opened Savoir Faire under Mr. Bonnot’s supervision. “My confidence went wobbly, but then I realized what made me different,” she said. “I had a certain standard that I just wouldn’t go below.”

The Chef: Susan Spicer








Susan Spicer Illustration by Michael Hoeweler for The Wall Street Journal

Her Restaurants: Bayona and Mondo, both in New Orleans

What She’s Known For: Bringing easygoing grace to fine dining in the Crescent City. Delivering global flavors with classical-French finesse.

This crab salad, Ms. Spicer’s first Slow Food Fast contribution, was on the original menu at Savoir Faire, all those years ago, when she had so much to prove. It still appears on the menu at Bayona, the fine-dining restaurant Ms. Spicer opened in 1990. Made with jumbo lump crabmeat, fresh basil, capers, carrots, lime zest and olive oil, it is served simply, alongside sliced avocado. “People just love it,” the chef said. “And it started 32 years ago.”

Ms. Spicer insists on using only the best Louisiana crabmeat for this salad. “I’m a real stickler,” she said. “I’d rather spend more money to get beautiful crab than use something mediocre. In peak season, crab has a natural sweetness to it that I just really like.” Avocado is a classic pairing for this ingredient, the basil and capers reference French cuisine and the carrots add color and texture. As for the lime zest, Ms. Spicer confessed, “I can’t explain it—it just works.” Yet even when her selection of ingredients is intuitive, her treatment of them is hardly haphazard. “This dish is best served a little chilled,” she advised, “so the lime is more bracing.”

A seasoned traveler, Ms. Spicer now experiments with a range of far-flung cuisines at her New Orleans restaurants, but her standards, rooted in her classical French training, are as high as ever. “There is no joy in it otherwise,” she said. “The parts have to work together, and they have to be visually attractive. It has to be delicious.”

—Kitty Greenwald


Crab Salad With Avocado

Total Time: 15 minutes Serves: 4

½ cup finely diced carrots

2 limes

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium shallot, minced

Sea salt


3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil, plus sprigs for garnish

½ bunch scallions, white and pale-green parts only, finely sliced

12 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat, shell fragments removed

2 tablespoons chopped capers

2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced lengthwise

1. Blanch carrots: Fill a large bowl with ice water. Set a small pot of water over high heat. When water boils, add carrots and blanch 30 seconds. Drain carrots and plunge into ice water. Dry carrots thoroughly.

2. Make lime vinaigrette: Zest 1 lime into a small bowl. Then, juice both limes into bowl with zest. Whisk in vinegar, oil and shallots. Season with salt and Tabasco to taste.

3. In a medium bowl, toss together basil, scallions, crabmeat, carrots and capers. Fold in lime vinaigrette until all ingredients are well coated. Garnish with basil sprigs and avocado slices.

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