This recipe is a variation of a dish served at Pere Antoine Restaurant on the corner of Royal Street and St. Ann in the Vieux Carré, where mushroom caps are stuffed with the creamed spinach-mushroom-crab mixture then breaded and deep-fried. Here the dish is served en casserole, with a more substantial emphasis on the crab, making it much less time-consuming and more suitable for a buffet. In formal culinary parlance, this would likely be called a crab Florentine bon femme but Pere Antoine calls it Tchoupitoulas after a tribe of Native Americans who settled in the area during their Pre-Columbian wanderings along the Mississippi River.
Sauté a half pound of fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced, a 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, drained (squeeze it!), a half pound lump crab meat (picked through), a few ounces of finely julienned fresh sweet red pepper, a few tablespoons of grated onion and a finely minced clove of garlic in butter. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Make a rich white sauce with a blond roux of two tablespoons butter, three of plain flour, a cup of whole cream and a cup of whole milk. Add spinach and crab mixture to sauce along with a half cup of freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or another hard-sharp cheese. You can add a ground pepper of your choice (I recommend white) for a little zip, and as with all seafood, lemon or lime is always a welcome accent. Place in a very hot oven until browned and bubbling. Serve with well-buttered toast. This dish can be made up to three days before and frozen until the occasion.