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Crab (or Lobster) Croutons with Orange Sesame Mayonnaise

For the croutons:
20 3/8-inch-thick slices French bread, cut on the diagonal from a baguette 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the crab (or lobster) topping:
1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (colored portion of rind)
1 teaspoon orange juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1 green onion with 2 inches of green stem left on, finely chopped
1/2 pound cooked lobster meat, diced or cooked crab meat (see notes)
4 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted (see notes)
4 teaspoons finely chopped chives or flat leaf parsley

To prepare croutons, arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush bread slices lightly with butter and arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake 4 minutes, then turn and bake 3 to 5 minutes more, until croutons are slightly crisp and light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool. Croutons can be prepared 2 to 3 hours ahead and kept loosely covered with aluminum foil at cool room temperature.

To prepare the filling, combine mayonnaise, sesame oil, vinegar, orange zest and juice, celery, green onion and lobster in a large non-reactive bowl. Mix well. Mixture can be prepared 2 to 3 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using.

To assemble croutons, spread each bread slice with about 2 teaspoons mayonnaise mixture and sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds and chives or parsley. Arrange croutons on a serving plate and serve immediately.

Notes: To toast sesame seeds, place in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and cool. Serves 6 to 8.

If using lobster: One pound of uncooked lobster in the shell will yield approximately 1/4 pound cooked, shelled lobster meat. Many fish markets will cook lobsters and remove meat for you. The price is higher, but often worth it for the time it saves.

Betty Rosbottom

Thursday, November 30, 2000

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