And now, another guest post from our West Coast contingent/BLK sommelier, Abi. Thanks, Ab!—C and T
Gentle readers, It has been far too long since I have graced these fair electronic pages. I cannot imagine the deep sense of abandonment you felt, knowing that I am so close, yet so, so far away. And I cannot deny my adoring public any longer (despite the fact that they have not spoken—I can only assume their grief keeps them silent), which has brought us to this juncture. Also, it turns out, I am afraid of making crab cakes. [How convenient for us!—C; And here I thought this might be Abi’s way of asking where we have been…-T]
The first recipe I refer to is from Alton Brown. It includes a lot of panko and I am trying to minimize my consumption of bread products [weirdo—C] So, I do what all good health-conscious cooks do and cobble together the best parts of several different recipes to make an uber-healthy recipe and just hope it tastes OK.
What I imagine will be my biggest hurdle turns out to be my smallest, to my great relief. As fate would have it, Sunshine Foods only carries one type of fresh crab meat: Dungeness [OK so technically this isn’t a real Maryland crab cake since it’s not Maryland blue crab but we’ll give you a pass.—C]. You don't get a choice of big lumps or small stringy bits, it just all comes mashed together in a surprisingly appetizing way [That does not sound at all appetizing.—T]. The biggest roadblock ends up being mayonnaise, as I couldn't decide if I wanted to get the “light” that they had at the small family-owned market, or if I wanted to go across town (like, a mile at most) to the Safeway to get the “fat-free” version. Laziness and the justification that it would taste better and I could just use less won out in the end. [My policy is always low-fat, never fat-free. Fat-free anything is universally disgusting.—C; Agreed. There needs to be some food in your food.—T]
Now I am at home. I stopped to write this and haven't even turned on the oven. I get myself a Ojai Pixie [for those not in the know, this is basically a clementine, not booze as I originally thought—C] to eat while I am cooking. Again, bear in mind I still have no idea what I am doing.
Okay, we're back! Things I can tell you right off the top of my head include: I used too much mayonnaise (two tablespoons would probably have sufficed. I used three, which was still a lot less than the recommended 1/2 cup) [also, I love that it's Best Foods out there instead of East Coast-style Hellman's even thought it's the same thing—C]. And, I didn't wash my hands well enough after I cut up the jalapeno. I immediately regretted this decision. [Been there, done that—C; Fun fact: You should use vodka to wash your hands after chopping jalepeños.—T] I used a cast iron to bake my crab cakes because I am fancy like that. I've been using a cast iron pretty much exclusively for the past month and I wonder why I didn't use it for absolutely everything before. It really is the best catch-all cooking implement.
Now I have to decide if I really want to try to make tartar sauce.
1. Tartar sauce is really good.
2. Purchased all the ingredients.
1. Will add more fat to my recipe.
2. Probably more difficult to make than I really want to deal with right now.
3. Will get mocked for making the crab cakes and chickening out of the tartar sauce even if it's mostly because I'm too lazy.
I am going to compromise and make the tartar sauce, but I may not use it because I can tell the cakes will be nice and moist and already incredibly flavorful. So here goes ...
Remember when I was like “recipes are for chumps!'?" Yeah, Same story. Only this kind of tastes gross. Well, it takes like a pickle and some capers all chopped up in mayonnaise with lemon juice thrown in. What exactly had I been expecting, anyhow? I decided if this could be redeemed it would be through the magic of The PEPPER PLANT. Those aren't gratuitous caps, that's what the label looks like for realz (yeah, I didn't really think I could pull that off, either). Unsurprisingly it tastes way better. [Note to BLK: I will be sending you some of this next week ... uh ... with the wine I still owe you. I can't believe I haven't sent you any of this before ..] [Me neither!—C; Yay, wine! - T]
Victory!! I have made a delicious crab-laden treat without too much pain! AND it even looks pretty. So, good job, me! It will not be too long before I attempt this again. (Lobster cakes, anyone???)
Lessons I learned from making crab cakes:
1. Making crab cakes is easy. All you do is put a bunch of stuff that sounds good and maybe you remember having had in crab cakes before into a big bowl, mush it up, and then bake it. (What are recipes, really, but just that?)
2. Once you cut and de-seed a jalapeno you will never, ever get it off your flesh. My nose wasn't the only victim this evening. God did not mean for you to burn in certain places... ... yes. That happened.
3. Tartar sauce isn't something you just make all willy-nilly. Tartar sauce is something you get in a restaurant (I don't approve of the shelf-stable version—how can that possibly be any good?). HOWEVER... mine turned out great with my crab cakes! Really, it didn't need the tartar sauce because they were so flavorful, but it added a nice bit of acidity that made them just that much better.
4. Arugula, while a good salad lettuce and an attractive garnish, is not good as a crab accoutrement. Nice try, me. [Really? I would think it would be a nice salad base for the crab cake.—T]
5. Sometimes it takes your friends shaming you into doing things, and that's OK. It may just be worth it in the end.
[6. “Crab cakes” is two words, not one.—C, aka The Editor; Yeah, I would have gotten that wrong too. - T]