Thursday, February 12, 2009

Feeling a little crabby about Valentines Day?

Valentines Day is Saturday, and if you're thinking of eating in, one can't-miss dinner course is crab. I've loved the crab cakes I've had in California and New Orleans, but the crab I've had in Virginia puts the Pacific and Gulf Coast varieties to shame.  "I Love Crab Cakes" was a bright and sassy one-seafood wonder book I came across a few years ago, and this recipe doesn't use much in the way of filler ingredients, perfect for the one you love.

Thierry's crab cakes

Prep time: 35 minutes | Cook time: 2 minutes | Serves 2 as main course

Thierry Rautureau, a chef transplanted from the west coast of France, owns one of Seattle's most-admired restaurants, Rover's. His recipe here is adapted from "I Love Crab Cakes" (William Morrow, $19.95, 160 pages). His version uses Dungeness crab, the most commonly available on the West Coast.

Notes: You will need 4 ring molds, 2 to 2-1/2 inches in diameter and at least 1-1/2 inches deep. Small tin cans, open on both ends, will do. For more color, replace the shallots with minced red bell pepper. Rautureau recommends serving the cakes with a clam aioli.

3/4 pound (12 ounces) crabmeat, drained, picked clean of shell and lightly squeezed if wet
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives

To make cakes, put crabmeat on a cutting board and chop into small pieces. No piece of crab should be larger than the size of a pea. (It's important to chop the crab so you get a tight pack in the mold without air spaces.) Transfer crabmeat to a bowl and add garlic, shallots, chives, basil and a little pepper to taste.

Set 4 ring molds on a work surface. Divide the crab mixture among the molds, packing the crab as tightly as you can into each mold with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Put the bread crumbs on a plate. Leaving the crabmeat in the mold, use a spoon to spread a generous, even layer of egg wash on top of the crabmeat.

Turn the mold upside down (egg-washed side down) onto the plate of bread crumbs. If the crabmeat is not even with the edge of the mold on both sides, push down on the crabmeat with your fingers so the egg-washed side makes contact with the bread crumbs. Generously spoon the egg wash over the unbreaded side of the mold and turn the mold upside down again to bread the other side, pushing down on the crabmeat if needed to make contact with the crumbs.

Both the top and bottom sides of the crabmeat in the mold should be evenly covered with a layer of egg wash and crumbs. Set the mold aside and repeat with the remaining molds.

Set a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the skillet is hot, pick up a mold and place it in the pan, then use your fingers to carefully push the crab cake out of the mold, removing the mold from the pan. Repeat with the remaining molds. Cook the crab cakes until browned on the first side, about 1 minute, then carefully turn them over, using a spatula, and brown the second side, about a minute more. Set out 4 plates and set a crab cake on each plate.

Per serving: 460 cal.; 42 g pro.; 22 g carb.; 22 g fat (4 sat., 14 monounsat., 4 polyunsat.); 342 mg chol.; 862 mg sod.; 0 fiber; 0 sugar; 43 percent calories from fat.

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