Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bordering on Perfection

Dr. C. and I love crab; we lived in the Baltimore area when we were first married, and fell in love in particular with Maryland blue crab.

Sweet, and succulent,  hard to get out of the shell, this crab is my first choice when making crab cakes.  Crab comes in a few different grades, my favorite is the Jumbo lump; if you can't get the jumbo lump, get the lump and deal with it.

We were introduced to Maryland crabs at a crab boil; these spicy crustaceans are cracked and sucked out of the shell, dipped in vinegar and downed with huge quantities of beer--what's not to love?  But this is tedious work (that's where the beer comes in!) Another fave of course are crab cakes.  Crab cakes vary from place to place. The best are what locals would call, "no filler", meaning that there isn't a lot of breading in or on the crab cakes.  That being said, it's easier and cheaper to fill the cakes with other stuff, rather than just crab meat as these poor things. I only see one piece of crab in this photo.
They look appetizing (food styling) but in reality, there is probably not much crab in here.  I was working on a recipe for no-filler crab cakes.  The engineering principle here is to include enough breading to help hold them together, but to make sure there is more crab than anything else.  To try this recipe out, I actually ordered jumbo lump crab meat.  
I figured that I needed the real deal; a lot of lump crab meat is from Asia, and I wanted the Chesapeake Bay variety.  I looked through all my crab cake recipes, and then settled on a formula using egg and mayonnaise as a binder. Dr. C. and I decided that these were very close to perfect.  Served with remoulade sauce and cole slaw, this was a delicious lunch on Saturday and we have a few leftover for dinner tonight.

Close To Perfect Crab Cakes

Makes 8 large or 12 to 18 mini crab cakes

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped chives

1.      Coat the inside of eight 4-ounce ramekins with some of the butter. 
2.      Toss the saltines, Old Bay, parsley and chives with the remaining butter and use 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mixture to coat the inside of the ramekins and set the remaining crumbs aside. 

For the Crab Cakes

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 egg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 to 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Remaining crumbs from ramekins (see above)
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1.      In a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, egg, lemon juice, Dijon, Worcestershire, and Old Bay until blended.  
2.      Add the crumbs, and fold in. 
3.      Gently fold in the crab, being careful not to break up the lumps.  (This is the one time when lumps are GOOD!) 
4.      Using a 1/4 cup portion scoop, portion the crab mixture into the ramekins. 
5.      Do-Ahead:  At this point, you can cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  Remove from the refrigerator 45 minutes before baking and arrange on a baking sheet. 
6.      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, brush the crab cakes with butter, and bake the crab cakes for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown. 
7.      Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 3 to 4 minutes, and then tip the cakes out onto plates and serve with Remoulade or Tartar sauce on the side.  Cook's Note:  If you would like to bake these (without the ramekins) roll the crab cakes in the crumbs, and place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking liner and bake as directed.

Remoulade Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

¾ cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon or Creole mustard
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon finely chopped cornichons or dill pickles
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons finely chopped capers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1.      In a bowl, combine all the ingredients until blended.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.  Serve cold. 
2.      Great for dipping cooked shrimp, serving with fried fish, or crab cakes. 
3.      Cook’s Note:  If you have a food processor, there is no need to chop everything, just place it in the food processor and processor until smooth. 

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. 

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