This cream cheese-based appetizer can be made with either fresh, canned or even frozen seafood. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

The name “seafood spread” too modestly describes this utterly flexible little recipe.

I picked it up in 1985 from fellow garden club friend and member Marty Booker, who brought it to our annual Garden Club meeting banquet. I thought it was wonderful and served it recently to friends who kept coming back for more.

You can serve it hot or cold as either a dip or spread. For a spread, I serve this cold with fairly plain crackers. For a dip, I warm it in the oven or microwave, and serve it with crudites or crostini, pita or potato chips.

Cream cheese forms the base, into which you mix the seafood, splash in a wee bit of soy sauce, then adorn the top with cocktail sauce — which some of you may know is essentially ketchup with ground horseradish added.

In fact, the seafood part can be canned or fresh crab meat, lobster, clams, tiny shrimp, tuna or salmon. It merely needs to be flaked or chopped into small pieces so that it can be stirred into the cream cheese. If you lack cream cheese, you can substitute ricotta with a little mayonnaise stirred into it, a soft goat cheese, or cottage cheese beaten with a little cream or sour cream mixed in to smooth it out.

You may have a favorite cocktail sauce to use. When I don’t, I use ketchup and add prepared horseradish to taste.

This means that to make an appetizer instantly, all you need to keep on hand is canned or frozen seafood, a package of cream cheese, and a jar of cocktail sauce or a bottle of ketchup and a little jar of horseradish. If you always have soy sauce on hand, good for you. You can actually leave it out and this will taste good anyway.

If you serve this cold, mound the cream cheese and seafood mix on a serving plate, then spread the cocktail sauce on top, and garnish if you wish with a little parsley, capers or chopped chives. To serve it warm, stir all the ingredients together and heat it until it is loose and bubbly.

There was a modicum of leftover spread from a recent batch. For breakfast, I gathered up a huge handful of spinach that I softened in a frypan in olive oil. I dropped a few blobs of spread here and there and then added an egg on top. I covered the pan, and cooked it all until the spread softened and the egg yolk was runny but the white firm. Was that ever good.

Seafood Spread

Makes about one and a half cups of spread.

1 small can (about 6 ounces) crabmeat

8 ounces of cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ cup cocktail sauce (or ½ cup of ketchup plus 4 tablespoons of prepared horseradish)

Parsley, capers, or chopped chives for garnish

Mix together the seafood and cream and mound on a plate.


Spread the cocktail sauce (or, alternatively, the ketchup and horseradish mixed together) over the top of the cream cheese and seafood mix.

Garnish with your choice of herbs or capers.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...