Friday, June 22, 2018

Rosie Makes Cakes Of Crab.

The crab cake.

Question:  What makes a good crab cake? 
  Answer:   Not a whole lot.

When it comes to crab cakes, less is more.
Really, all you need is crab meat, preferably jumbo lump or backfin..
You don't want a lot of filler, or "sawdust."

Finding the "ultimate" crab cake is like finding the best BBQ, the best potato salad, the best cornbread, the best cole slaw.  Everybody's got a recipe and it's a source of debate and fierce regional pride.  It's dangerous territory - a culinary battlefield, so to speak, and it can lead to barroom brawls and family feuds. 

As for the history of the crab cake, it's been around for a while. On one of my recent forays to the recycling center,I found a worn paperback edition of Chesapeake, by James A. Michener. The history of the native Indian tribes of the Chesapeake is documented and many references are made to the regional foods, the crab featuring prominently.  The Native Americans prepared crabs long before the arrival of the colonial settlers and the crab cake was one of the first native dishes adopted by the settlers of the Chesapeake region.

From Chesapeake (circa 1600s):  
" 'What is crab?' Pentaquod asked, and Scar-chin replied, 'When Manitou, the Great Power, finished populating the river with everything our village required - pine trees for canoes, deer to feed us in summer, geese and oysters for winter- He saw that we were grateful and well disposed.  So in His grace He created one thing more, to stand as a token of His eternal concern.  He made the crab and hid him in our salty waters.'
"... A crab provides little food,  so he is not easy to eat.  But the little he does offer is the best food under the sky.  To eat crab you must work, which makes you appreciate him more.  He is the blessing, the remembrance.  And no man or woman ever ate enough.
"... They like us to eat them, Navitan said.  'Manitou sends them to us for that purpose.'  "Pentaquod gingerly touched one and found the shell extremely hard, but he could not examine it closely, for the fierce claws snapped at him.  He was even more perplexed when Navitan carried her two dozen crabs to camp and pitched them into a pot of boiling water, for within moments, they turned bright red.  She then instructed him in how to pick meat from the carcasses, and when she had a clay bowl filled she told him to stop, for she knew that picking crab was a tedious and demanding job: a dozen crabs produced only a handful of meat.
"But when she took this meat, as her mother had taught her, and mixed it with herbs and vegetables and corn meal, and formed it into small cakes and fried them in sizzling bear fat, she produced one of the finest dishes this river would ever know.  'Cakes of crab," she called them, and Pentaquod found them subtle and delicious."

For my cakes of crab, I tried to use the least amount of fill material to just bind the ingredients.

When mixing ingredients, don't work the crab meat much.  Don't break the lumps.  You want the crab meat to be the star.  Be gentle, so the crab meat will respect you.

Try Rosie's crab cakes. I think you'll like them. My family did.  And as Youngest Hawthorne commented, "These are good.  They don't taste like crab-flavored bread." High praise, indeed, from this one.

Rosie's Cakes of Crab Version 12.2
(Yes, it's an ongoing thing.)
Makes 8 cakes.

1 TB minced shallot
1 TB minced celery
1 TB chopped parsley
1 TB lemon juice
1 tsp Gray Poupon Dijon mustard
1 TB mayonnaise
1 egg
1 tsp Sriracha sauce 
1 tsp ground mustard
2 tsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1 lb. lump crab meat, picked over to remove any shell

Beat egg and add rest of ingredients, except for crab meat, mixing until well-combined.  Pour mixture over crab meat and gently combine, being careful not to break up the lumps of crab. 

Form the cakes.  I used a 3-inch-diameter biscuit cutter and lightly pressed the crab mixture into the cutter, about 1 inch thick.  Cover with plastic wrap and set into refrigerate to chill for at least an hour.

Lightly bread the cakes.
 I used a mixture of:
1 part Panko breadcrumbs
1 part potato flakes
1 part crushed Ritz crackers.
Sprinkle breading over cakes.  Both sides.  Lightly press into cakes.  And fry on each side until golden.

Being fresh out of bear fat, I'm using peanut oil.

In an iron skillet, heat about 1/8 inch peanut oil with a tablespoon of unsalted butter until the oil registers 350°.  (I throw in the butter for the flavor.  What can I say?  I like buttah!)  Gently slide the crab cakes into the hot oil.  I fry two at a time so as not to crowd the pan and reduce the temperature.  Fry about 2 minutes each side, until light golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.  And serve.

Lightly bread the cakes.  I sprinkle some breading onto wax paper and set the cakes on top, then sprinkle more breading on top of the cakes.

I served these with cole slaw (yet another hotly contested concoction) and Rosie's Remoulade sauce.

Rosie's Cole Slaw
2 cups or thereabouts of shredded cabbage
some carrot slivers
some red pepper slivers
 Combine ingredients.

2 TB mayonnaise
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 TB buttermilk

For the dressing, whisk ingredients until smooth.  Pour over cabbage, carrot, and red pepper.  Toss to coat.  Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.

Rosie's Remoulade

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 TB Gray Poupon Dijon mustard
1 tsp sweet relish
1 tsp Texas Pete
1 TB fresh dill
freshly ground pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients until smooth.

Now, that's a crab cake.

Showcase the crab!

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