Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Crab Cakes - The Perfect First Meal

Fact:  Everyone loves crab cakes.  Ok, maybe not a fact.  But, for most people, they are a delicious treat.  And so easy to make.  I think people shy away from crab cakes because of the cost of quality crab meat.  Yes, it is not cheap, however, home made crab cakes are much cheaper than restaurant crab cakes and many times, better.

I highly recommend getting your lump crab meat from Costco.  It is pasteurized and in the refrigerated section - where the cheese is.  I'm really not sure who else has it but I'm guessing it is not exclusive to Costco. I think the price hovers somewhere around $20 a pound.  I hear you.  That is more than beef tenderloin.  Keep in mind that one pound of crab meat makes 8 generous crab cakes.  So, for about $5 a person, you have a delicious meal.  Under no circumstance should you use canned crab meat (where the canned tuna is).  You will not be happy.

I love the taste of crab so I like to keep my crab cakes basic.  Here's the recipe I use.

Crab Cakes

3 slices of white bread, cut the crusts off and crumble or cut into small pieces.  You can even use a food processor to make fresh crumbs if you want
1 egg
6 T mayo (sorry, but please use Hellman's - crab meat is too expensive to use anything else)
1 T fresh parsley (I have omitted this without serious consequence)
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 T Dijon mustard
1 t Old Bay
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound lump crab meat

1.  Make sure there are no pieces of shell in the crab meat but try to keep the lumps as large as possible.   
2.  Add all the remaining ingredients and gently toss until blended.

At this point, I put the mixture into a plastic storage container.  Don't use a bag for this because you don't want to break up those delicious lumps.  You can do this the day before you travel but I wouldn't recommend any earlier.  Honestly, as simple as this is, you could do it the morning of departure.  Or, take 5 minutes and do it at the beach while your rice is cooking. 

Your rental unit will probably have a cookie sheet, but you will absolutely want to bring parchment paper.  Not waxed paper.  The parchment paper serves two purposes.  One, it will prevent your crab cakes from sticking to the sheet.  Two, clean up is minimized since you just toss the paper.  You can just tear one baking sheet sized sheet and bring that.  No need to bring the whole roll.

3.  Form into 8 equal sized cakes, place on parchment papered baking sheet and broil until nicely browned and heated through.

If you like tartar sauce, by all means bring some.  I could go either way. 

Crab cakes are very rich so it is possible that someone will only want one.  (I know...crazy!).  There is no better lunch than a crab cake sandwich.  Just warm gently in the microwave or a skillet and put on a bun (toasted if you are feeling ambitious) with some tartar sauce and lettuce and tomato.  Just the crab cake on a plain bun is not bad either.  Neither is just a leftover crab cake on a plate.

I haven't tried it but I think crab cake eggs benedict would make a great breakfast. 

Rice Pilaf is the perfect side dish to Crab Cakes.  You probably have a favorite recipe but here is the one I use.  You can make this a day or two ahead and reheat in the microwave for that first dinner.  Of course I know that everything tastes better when freshly made but we are on vacation after all. 

Basic Rice Pilaf

1/2 cup orzo
1/4 cup butter
1 onion, diced
1 cup rice (I don't normally use Uncle Ben's but I think it works best here and seems to reheat better)
2 1/4 cup chicken stock

Brown the orzo and onion in the butter.  You don't want to burn it but you do want to nicely brown the orzo and onions.  Add the rice and broth, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  The Uncle Ben's takes less time to cook which prevents the orzo from overcooking.  Regular long grain rice takes longer. 

After the rice cools, you can put this in a bag or plastic container.

Both the rice and the crab mixture will go in the cooler the morning of departure. 

Add to this some salad greens with your favorite dressing.  Here is a dressing that I like. 
I use a Magic Bullet and then just put the lid on for travel.  If you want to get fancy, add some cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion. 

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1T garlic - a couple of good sized cloves
1/4 cup balsamic
2 t brown sugar (light or dark) - I think this makes less expensive balsamic taste better
1/2 salt
1/2 t pepper
1 t Dijon
3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Put the garlic in the Magic Bullet ( or chop by hand).  After the garlic is finely minced add the balsamic, brown sugar, salt, pepper and Dijon.  Blend well.  Add the olive oil and blend until nicely thickened. 

Open a nice bottle of white wine and enjoy that first beach meal on the deck listening to the waves and watching that beautiful sunset! 

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