Saturday, December 31, 2011

A fluffy cloud of a crabcake

Crabcakes come in many guises. Most of the ones you get in restaurants are heavy on the breadcrumbs and light on the crab, maybe with a little celery for crunch and red bell pepper for color. Many also rely on mayonnaise for creaminess. All in all, not a very nutritious or inspiring dish, although because we love crab, we keep ordering them, hoping that one might rise above the rest.

But anyone who really loves crab and crabcakes should find a copy of Tom Douglas' "I Love Crab Cakes! 50 Recipes for an American Classic." (Get the hardback; you'll be using it a lot if you truly love crabcakes.) It was there I found Thierry's Dungeness Crab Cakes, which are crab — seasoned lightly with black pepper, minced garlic, shallots, chives and basil — pressed tightly into a round mold, then doused with beaten egg yolks and bread crumbs on each side and fried for a minute on each side until the crumbs are golden. They are served with clam aioli. Now that's a CRABcake. (That recipe can be found by clicking HERE.)

So this week, with Casey's Backfin Crab on special, I tried another recipe from the book, and it too was wonderful. It has the flavors of the Pacific Rim, is light as a cloud and the texture of the crab dominates. The recipe follows.

Side note: In 2011, the Associated Press Stylebook recognized "crabcake" as one word.

Coconut Milk Crabcakes With Lime Zest 
from "I Love Crab Cakes!" by Tom Douglas (Morrow, 2006, 150 pages)
Must Credit Author and Publisher if you lift this off my site! Lori Korleski Richardson
Makes 8 large crabcakes

1 can coconut milk, unsweetened (not coconut water)
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 pound crabmeat, drained, picked clean of shell and lightly squeezed if wet
3 scallions, thinly sliced, both green and white parts
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko, plus up to 2 cups more for dredging
(Lori's note: Japanese panko crumbs will yield the lightest cakes, but regular crumbs can be substituted. I had neither and ended up using what I had, matzo crumbs, and even they worked well.)
2 large egg whites
Peanut or canola oil for frying
Thai sweet chili sauce
4 lime wedges

Combine the coconut milk and lime zest in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to simmer until the milk is reduced by about one-third, adjusting the heat as necessary. (You should have about 3/4 cup reduced coconut milk.) Transfer the coconut milk to a large bowl and refrigerate until cold.

When the coconut milk is cold, add the crabmeat, scallions, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Stir in the 1 cup panko. Whip the egg whites into soft peaks (when you lift the beater, the whip should keep its shape for at least a moment or two). Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the crab mixture gently but thoroughly.

Divide the mixture into 8 portions, then flatten them into patties. Pour panko so that it covers the bottom of a shallow container. Dredge the patties in the panko, replenishing as needed. If time permits, you can cover and chill the cakes for 30 minutes or more. This will make them easier to turn when you fry them.

When ready to fry the crabcakes, place 2 large iron skillets over medium-high heat and pour in enough oil to coat the bottoms of the pans about 1/8-inch deep. When the oil is hot, shake off any excess crumbs from the patties, add 4 patties to each pan, and reduce the heat to medium. Fry until the crabcakes are golden brown and heated through, turning once with a spatula to brown both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. The internal terature of a crabcake should read 155 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the crabcakes from the pans and drain on paper towels.

Transfer the crabcakes to plates, serving 2 to each person, accompanied by ramekins of sweet chili sauce and lime wedges.

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