Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Classic Crab Cakes

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You know how sometimes all it takes to unleash a fully-fledged craving is just the simple mention of something you haven't thought of in a while? A few days before my birthday this year, I read this post, and I knew right then and there that nothing else but crab would do for my birthday dinner. I looked online at some restaurant menus, and then came to my senses and decided to just grab some crab and heat it up at home. Even with a bottle of champagne, a nice loaf of bread, and a salad, we spent less on the whole meal than we would have on one entree at a restaurant. It felt pretty good. Especially when I realized that crab makes for some pretty phenomenal leftovers.

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These crab cakes made a perfect birthday lunch alongside a refreshing, peppery arugula salad with a lemon-caper vinaigrette. Crispy on the outside, filled with simply-seasoned sweet hunks of crab, and a dab of homemade tartar sauce on the side. And since it was my birthday, a mimosa to wash it down. Delicious.

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Classic Crab Cakes
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
yield: 4 cakes

1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shell fragments
2 celery stalks, finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1-4 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
salt and ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently mix crabmeat, celery, cilantro, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons bread crumbs, and Old Bay in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Carefully fold in egg with rubber spatula until mixture barely holds together. If the mixture doesn't bind, add more breadcrumbs, a tablespoon at a time, until they do. Don't overdo it - it just barely has to hold together.

Divide crab into four portions and shape into fat, round cakes, about 3 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches thick. Arrange on prepared baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Place flour in shallow baking dish or pie plate. Lightly dredge cakes in flour. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Gently lay floured cakes in skillet and cook until both sides are crisp and golden, 4-5 minutes per side. Serve immediately with lemon wedges or tartar sauce.

Tartar Sauce

yield: about 1 cup

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 shallot, mnced
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and minced
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Mix together in a small bowl.

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