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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Feeling Crabby

Alright, folks, I feel I need to come clean.  I know in previous posts I have declared things my "favorite thing ever".  And it's true that they ARE in fact among my favorite things ever.  Peanut butter, chocolate, apple pie, a really good burger, bleu cheese, fountain sodas, coffee - these are all things that if stranded on an island I would really really miss.  But here is where I tell you what I hold as my favorite thing ever.  Seriously.  Are you ready for it?


Something you should know about me - I am allergic to oysters.  I found that out the hard way when I used to waitress at Red Lobster and tried oysters for the very first time.  Within 15 minutes I was covered in hives.  Same thing happens with clams.  Lucky for me, though, I only have issues with the mollusks, but crustaceans are still OK.  A couple months ago I had a small scare and thought that my days with crustaceans were over, but it turns out it was a false alarm.  This would have crushed me!  In my world, nothing, and I mean NOTHING beats the sweet and delicate flavor that you can only get from crab.  Now most people see lobster as the pinnacle of seafood and I get it, really I do.  A perfectly prepared lobster is hard to beat for sure.  But if given the choice between a lobster tail and a crab leg, I will choose the crab, hands down.  So last night when we were at the store doing our weekly shopping and my hubby asked me frequently asked question "what's for dinner?", I got an idea.
I try to make at least one really special meal a week. That's not to say that it's always expensive or super fancy, but something that I don't have time during the work week to pull off, especially since I work until 11 pm.  Sometimes it's a pot roast, sometimes pork and sauerkraut, sometimes a roasted chicken with all the trimmings.  One of his favorites (and one that I will blog the next time I make it) is pan seared pork chops with a creamy garlic, tarragon, and white wine sauce.  Sometimes it's themed: Asian, German, and Indian have all had their nights here.  Tonight was quasi-Mexican with Chalupas and caramel apple empanadas.  (Some weeks he gets two special meals!).  But I've gotten off track......

My idea yesterday came while standing at the meat counter at our local grocery store.  I decided New York strip steaks were in order.  After all, this was the first weekend in a month that we were able to stay home and just relax.  While waiting for them to cut me a couple thick steaks (go big or go home!) I glanced to the left and saw the seafood.  And then I saw the cans of crab meat.  And then my version of surf and turf seemed like the best idea in the world!

There was one problem - never in my life have I made a crab cake!  And I'm SUPER picky about my crab cakes. This is one of those instances where I sat back and asked myself "what do I KNOW?". Well, I know lemon and parsley are good with seafood.  I know there is mayonnaise and breadcrumbs in crab cakes to bind them. I know that crab is delicate and easily overpowered. And I HATE crab cakes with too much filler.  What's the point?  I know just a hint of heat elevates them to the next level.  And most importantly, I know a good crab cake should be able to stand on its own.  No tartar sauce, no cocktail sauce, maybe a dash of lemon.  But they should be flavorful enough that they aren't boring, but balanced enough that the crab shines through.  Then, I went with my instincts and created these super simple crab cakes.

Simple Crab Cakes
1 lb back fin crab meat (I used a good quality can from the seafood counter at my local grocery store)
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tsp lemon juice
1/3 c plain bread crumbs
2/3 c mayonnaise

3 Tbsp butter (for cooking)

Special tools:
A round cookie cutter (optional)

Makes 8 crab cakes

Crab mixture
Mixing the ingredients is E-A-S-Y.  Seriously.  You ready?  Dump all of the above things (except the butter) in a bowl and gently mix with your fingers.  There's no order, no wrong way to do it.  When it's all mixed together it kind of reminds me of a tuna salad consistency.

Cover bowl and set in the refrigerator for an hour.  I think it helps everything to blend well and the crab cakes to bind together.  Honestly, I can't really tell you why.  I just know that every time I've seen a recipe for any kind of "cake" (salmon, tuna, risotto), part of the directions have included letting the mixture set for an hour or two.  And every time I've skipped that step, my salmon/tuna/risotto cakes have crumbled into a mess.  So just do this.  You'll thank me later.

Get a round cookie cutter and set on a plate.  Pack crab meat mixture into the cookie cutter and press down so it holds form.  Then, simply lift the cookie cutter, and you have the most beautiful, perfect crab cake you've ever seen!  Repeat until all the crab mixture is used up.
Easy as 1-2-3!
Almost there.....

Heat pan with butter over medium heat.  Don't make your heat to high, because butter browns (and burns!) really quickly.  I went a little over medium heat on mine and they got a bit brown for my liking. Still GOOD, I was just going for a bit more golden than brown.

Cook on each side 2 - 3 minutes.

Serve with a lemon wedge or on its own.  (OK, OK, I GUESS if you are insistent, tartar sauce too.  But I'm telling you....totally not necessary).

See what I mean about them being a little more brown than I would have liked?  Nonetheless - they turned out crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.  Best of all, the seasoning did not overpower the crab, yet they were not at all bland!  Hope you enjoy!

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