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Monday, January 07, 2013

crab cakes

crab cakes

A New Year’s Resolution

My latest project is to increase our fun quotient. You know, go out to a family movie, do a 1000-piece puzzle on the dining room table, go ice skating together and stop for hot cocoa on the way home, get a babysitter and have a date night, sleep late on the weekend and have a family snuggle, get a tickets to a show, write a letter to a friend.

Also, I’ve resolved to make food that is more fun. You know my usual fare; most of my tried and trues are on this website already. And they are great. But I’m tired of the same old same old vegetable and bean dishes. Yeah, they still taste good—but everything seems a bit flat. I’m in serious need of a shake-up. A little ham in my bean soup. A little bacon on top of my salad. A little CRAB on my plate! And what better way to eat crab than crab cakes! I know, I know, it seems obvious…  but FRYING IS FUN!

crab cakes

I just tried making crab cakes for the first time tonight, and since I had red peppers and celery and red onion, I added them, too. The vegetables really amp up the flavor without covering up the taste of the crab.

Oh—and I didn’t pick the crab myself. I just used the 16-oz “Chicken of the Sea” plastic cup from the refrigerated section of Costco. Look for it near the smoked salmon. I’ve been dying to buy that crab and try it out for months now, and I’m here to tell you that it’s really great in crab cakes.

2 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
Several grindings of black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
half of a red onion
2 large celery stalks
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
olive oil (not extra-virgin) or vegetable oil
16 oz lump crab meat (canned is fine—see note, above. )
1 cup breadcrumbs (I used fresh bread crumbs, but you can use the unseasoned store-bought kind.)

1. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl and whisk in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Set aside.
2. Mince the red onion, celery, and red pepper into very small dice. Mince or press the garlic. Add a tablespoon of oil to a large skillet and sauté the vegetables in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat until they are softened and their liquid has cooked off.
3. Drain the crab and carefully squeeze the liquid out of it. Dump the crab into the skillet with the vegetables to cool down the hot vegetables. When the crab and vegetable mixture has cooled a bit, add it to the egg mixture. Stir carefully with a rubber spatula so you don’t break up the lumps of crab. Gently fold in the breadcrumbs. Wipe out the skillet.
4. Shape the crab mixture into patties and set them on a rack set inside a cookie sheet (so it doesn’t drip), or else on a sheet of parchment on the cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This will let the breadcrumbs absorb the egg mixture and allow the patties to consolidate. This makes them easier to fry.
5. Heat a tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium-high heat, and when the oil is hot, set the crab cakes carefully into the oil. Don’t put them too close together—leave plenty of room in between them so you can flip them easily. When the first side is nicely browned, flip each cake over carefully and fry the other side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined rack and wipe the skillet out again. Fry the rest of the crab cakes with fresh oil in another couple of batches. If you start eating them while you are still cooking them like we did, watch out—it’s easy to let them burn if you’re busy devouring the others. However, we just called that batch Cajun-style, and they were still pretty edible.
6. Serve the crab cakes atop or alongside a green salad. I made one with a mustardy dressing, avocados and toasted pumpkin seeds (recipe follows).

green salad with garlicky red wine mustard vinaigrette

This dressing is one that I make a lot of at once, and then keep in the refrigerator to use all the time. It keeps really well, is yummy and creamy without any eggs or cream in it (mustard is the emulsifying agent), and is great with a variety of different vegetables. You can also toss the dressing with steamed broccoli and top it with toasted green pumpkin seeds.

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 medium cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1-2 tablespoons honey
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Put first 5 ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Slowly pour in oil to make a creamy emulsion. Taste and season with more salt or honey if it needs it.


1 head lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces, or a bowl of baby salad greens
¼ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), toasted in a skillet until puffed and golden brown
ripe avocado, peeled and diced

Toss the salad greens with dressing to your taste, mix in the avocado, then sprinkle pumpkin seeds over the salad.

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