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In recent years, the avocado has become America’s darling, a super fruit beloved for its health benefits. But if you want to branch out from guacamole and avocado toast, here’s a dish that highlights the avocado’s enjoyable simplicity, courtesy of Attilio Marini, chef-owner of Cast Iron Chef Chophouse & Oyster Bar in New Haven. Marini’s take on crab cocktail, this chilled crab avocado is a dippable delight that allows the lump crab meat to stand out. “The weather is getting warmer and people don’t want to eat heavy, so this is great for an appetizer but it can also be a light meal,” Marini says. “You get so much flavor from very few ingredients — the freshness is great for summer dining.”

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Marini likes to innovate rather than follow or re-invent classics. “I like simple, clean flavors that allow the food to shine. I don’t masquerade my food,” he says. Although the dish doesn’t use cast iron, that’s where Marini finds great satisfaction. “Overall, the concept of creating a whole restaurant around cast iron cooking is different. Although cast iron has been around for years, I believe I’m bringing it back to the forefront — what’s old is new again!”

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Since he was 12, Marini has been in the kitchen, doing basic tasks and learning by his mother’s side at her restaurant, the former Marisa’s Ristorante in Bridgeport. Marini pursued a culinary career and has owned the Cast Iron Chef brand for two years. Mostly self-taught by reading and trial-and-error, Marini continues challenging himself. “Every day is a new experience in the kitchen. It keeps the mind stimulated because there’s always so much to learn and ways to improve a recipe. Every day I’m creating and expressing my cooking views,” he says. “Making people happy is the ultimate joy.” — Pamela Brown

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Chilled crab avocado

Servings: 8 (2-ounce) servings

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes 

  • 2 avocados, cut in small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped 
  • 2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 whole limes, squeezed 
  • 1 pound lump crab meat
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium-size bowl, mix the avocados, chives, olive oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Stir well. 

Add the crab meat, folding it in gently. 

Portion out in molds or serve it in a bowl along with any type of crispy tortilla chip, pita bread, or potato chip on the side. For showstopping molds, slice a cucumber lengthwise and wrap thin strips around the mixture.

Chef’s tip: Marini makes the dish to order, but for home cooks he suggests making it about an hour before serving. “When you add citrus of any kind, over time it starts to break down the ingredients,” he says.

Pamela Brown is a former English professor, a freelance writer, a marketing/PR specialist for the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, and author of Faithful Love, her first novel that inspired a love of writing. Pamela resides in Connecticut with her daughter, Alexis, who makes her life an adventure. 

This article appeared in the May 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram@connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.