Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Crustacean Celebration: Let Them Eat (Crab) Cakes!

You can never have too much crab.

There, I've said it. And I challenge anyone to prove me wrong, especially when it comes to our own treasured resource, the Dungeness crab. Which is why, whenever I buy live crab to cook at home or already cooked and cleaned from the store—it's no sin, they're just never as sweet and juicy as fresh-cooked—I make a point of buying more than I need.

Whether you make chowder, risotto, pasta or whatever, even the littlest dab of crab is going to make it better. And if you have enough leftover meat, and by that I mean about a whole crab's worth, you can make these heavenly crab cakes, perhaps the best and highest use of that precious seasonal treat next to eating it out of the shell.

My friend Michel shared her Thai-inflected recipe for these delicate, almost-all-crab cakes, which have only enough egg and bread crumbs to barely hold them together. I've added a dash of fish sauce to the original list, but otherwise it's exactly what she dictated to me the first night she made them for me and I fell to my knees begging for the recipe. Incidentally, it calls for the meat of two crabs, but the meat from one makes enough for a lovely dinner for two with a hearty green salad.

Michel's Thai-ish Crab Cakes

Yield: 15-18 small crab cakes

Meat of two Dungeness crabs
1/2 red bell pepper, minced
1/4 c. minced red or green onion
1 serrano pepper, finely minced
2-4 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. grated parmesan
Zest of 1 lime
1/2-1 tsp. fish sauce, to taste
(Adding some grated coconut and fresh mint or basil is also yummy.)

Whisk together and add:
Juice of 1 lime
1 egg

Stir crab mixture thoroughly.

Crumb coating:
1 c. bread crumbs, preferably Panko style
1/4 c. grated parmesan

Combine crumbs and parmesan and spread out on a plate.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper.

Scoop up about 1/4 cup of crab mixture and form into a plump cake about 2-inches in diameter (approx. 1” high). Compress so cake holds together. Gently sit cake in crumb mixture to coat bottom and sprinkle crumbs over top to coat (don’t flip the cake or it will fall apart). Gently compress cake between your hands to meld crumbs to the crab cake. (Keep cake plump; don’t flatten.)

Set each formed cake on lined baking sheet. When all cakes are formed, place sheet in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

Heat large sauté pan or griddle to medium-high heat and add olive oil, butter or mixture of both to generously coat pan. Gently place cakes in pan or on griddle, leaving plenty of room to turn them. Cook until golden brown and turn gently to brown other side, adding more oil or butter if needed. If cooking cakes in stages, keep cakes warm in oven until ready to serve.

Read the other post in this year's series, Don't Toss Those Shells. For even more seriously great crab recipes, from crab cakes to chowders to pasta dishes, read the posts from previous years: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

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