Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Crab Cakes with Spicy Aioli

So remember yesterday I said I had a reason for making mayo? Well, this is it. I wanted to make crab cakes with garlic aioli; the mayo was used in the aioli. Womp womp. Just kidding! There are no womps here. This is an exciting thing because it's yummy and yummy things are exciting and if you disagree, then why are you reading a food blog?! You weirdo.

This crab cake recipe is kind of like my little cheap-o secret because I use canned crab meat. What?! Yeah, you heard read me right, I use canned crab meat. Lump crab meat can be pretty expensive, especially if it isn't in season, and I'm not going to buy a bunch of crabs and de-meat (is that a word?) them myself. Canned crab meat, however, is readily available, v. affordable, and it's tastes pretty good if you know how to mask that canned taste. Plus, the crab in crab cakes is mixed with a bunch of other stuff and usually there's some sort of tasty sauce to go with it so why not use the canned kind? Save the good lump crab meat for something where the crab really shines, like a simple crab salad or ooh, a crab ceviche.
Ingredients [yields 6 small crab cakes]:
the cake
6 oz. can lump crab meat (in water, NOT brine)
1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1 egg
2 tablespoons finely minced red onion (about ¼ of a small red onion)
2 tablespoons finely minced red bell pepper (about ½ baby bell pepper)
1 tablespoon finely minced parsley (curly or flat-leaf, doesn't matter)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons regular Italian breadcrumbs
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs

the sauce
¼ cup mayo (homemade if you have it)
2 tablespoons finely minced red bell pepper (use the other half of the baby bell pepper from the crab cake)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce (or Vietnamese chili garlic sauce)

Canned crab is usually sitting in a cloudy liquid; just dump the contents of the can onto a sieve and leave it alone for a few minutes. Or, you can open the can, place the lid back into the can and press down on the crab a bit, turn the can upside down, and pour the juice out.

Start by squeezing some lemon juice directly onto the drained crab. The crab will soak up some of the acid, which will disguise the canned, un-fresh crab taste and give it some new life. Lemon is so magical in that way. It adds a brightness and a freshness and it's breathes new life into dull ingredients. Give the crab a minute to soak up the lemon. Then, add in the onion, red pepper, parsley, garlic, and regular breadcrumbs.
Use a fork to v. gently toss everything together. You don't want to destroy the bigger pieces of crab, you just want to get all of the ingredients evenly distributed.
Beat the egg in a separate bowl and then add it to the crab mixture. Again, gently mix the egg into the rest of the ingredients, doing your best not to break up the bigger pieces of crab. The egg is going to act as the binding ingredient so that the crab cakes won't fall apart in the pan.
Portion the crab cakes into equal sizes - I use my trusty cookie scoop (1-1/2 tablespoon measure) - and form them into little cakes. I just roll the the crab cake mixture in between my palms to form a sphere and then I squeeze my palms together gently to flatten it into a cake. Gently press each side of the cake in the panko breadcrumbs and then flip it onto its edge and get some crumbs around the perimeter as well. Be gentle so that it doesn't fall apart.
Cook the crab cakes in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil. You need just enough oil to get the breadcrumbs golden but not so much that you're practically deep frying these little guys. The cakes should be cooked on each side for 2 to 3 minutes until golden and crisp. Once the cakes are cooked through, place them on a paper towel for a few seconds to wick away any excess grease and then you can plate them right up, while they're still piping hot.
To make the sauce, just mix all of the ingredients up together; it is as simple as that. Please excuse the dirty cutting board but that's what happens when you're cooking for real.
Serve the sauce on the side or place a small spoonful on top each crab cake. I think the blob of sauce on top makes for a lovely presentation.
Squeeze a little extra lemon juice on each cake for an extra bit of acid to cut through the frying oil and the heavy sauce. And don't forget to serve a lemon wedge or two on the side for those diners who really, really love their lemon.
These crab cakes are crisp and crabby (duh) and delicious. The different colors from the various vegetables and herbs and the sauce make it look really festive and appetizing. These would make a great starter course. Or, you could totally skip the mini crab cakes and go for one big crab cake and stick it on a sandwich. That would be amazing. Spread a little of the aioli on both sides of a toasted bun, slap on the crab cake, top with a handful of microgreens, and you have a delicious lunch right there. Either way, it will be delicious. And I promise, you'll forget that you used canned crab. Or maybe you have an amazing memory and you won't. Whatever!
Here's the recipe page:

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