As a young girl, I remember quite liking the crab cakes which somehow transported themselves from the sea to the supermarket to our table and bore very little relationship to any known seafood. Looking back, I wonder how much crab was involved.
Over the years, my taste for crab cakes evolved in step with my appreciation of ‘real’ fish, the fresher the better. Once you have eaten a ‘real’ crab cake, with fresh crab and no filler, those crab cakes from your – or I should say my – distant past will recede even further into the mists of food memory.
An important element of these crab cakes is the panko – Japanese breadcrumbs. They’re somewhat coarsely ground, more like flakes than crumbs. They brown up nicely, stay crispy longer and absorb less grease than regular bread crumbs.
1 lb lump crab meat
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup clarified butter (see ‘Pantry’)
For the aioli you’ll need:
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ chopped roasted red peppers
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Chives for garnish
Mix the chopped celery, chopped shallots, the mayonnaise, the egg and the fresh breadcrumbs together in a large bowl. Fold the crab meat into the mixture very gingerly, making sure that it doesn’t break apart. The ‘lumpier’ the crab, the better the cakes’ texture and the more like a ‘real’ crab cake this marvelous dish will be!
Shape the mixture into hockey puck shaped patties, dip them into the panko, place them on a cookie sheet and chill for about ½ hour in the refrigerator or freezer. The chilling helps the patties stay together.
While the crab cakes are chilling, make the aioli by combining the mayonnaise, red peppers, lemon juice and chopped chives.
When the aioli’s ready, your guests are salivating and you’re prepared to serve the dish, heat the clarified butter (see ‘Pantry’) in a large skillet. Cook the crab cakes in the butter until they’re golden brown – approximately 5 minutes per side.
Serve topped with the aioli and fresh chive garnish. If your guests have never had a ‘real’ crab cake, you might suggest that they take a forkful without the aioli, without any garnish, just to experience the taste revolution …
Makes 12 crab cakes