Notes: The point of a crab cake is pure crab flavor, not filler, according to Nicholas Petti, chef-owner of Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg. He won the Mendocino Crab & Wine Days Crabcake Cookoff in both 2002 and 2003 with these simple cakes. The winning wine with crab at the first competition, a Handley Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, is perfect with them. As a shortcut for the tarragon aioli--or if you're concerned about possible bacteria in raw eggs--substitute 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise mixed with 1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon, 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and hot sauce and salt to taste. Start the cabbage salad first, then make the aioli and crab cakes.
1 pound shelled cooked crab (about 2 3/4 cups)
1 3/4 cups panko (Japanese dried bread crumbs) or other dried bread crumbs, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions (including green tops)
Sort through crab; remove and discard any bits of shell. In a bowl, combine crab, 3/4 cup panko, and green onions. Gently mix in 3/4 cup tarragon aioli just until mixture holds together.
Press mixture firmly into eight equal patties about 3 inches wide; set slightly apart on waxed paper or foil. Pour remaining panko into a shallow bowl.
Preheat oven to 200°. Pour 1/3 cup oil into a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, set each crab cake in panko. Using a slotted spatula, turn, pressing gently to coat.
Fry cakes in small batches, using more oil as needed, until golden brown on the bottom, 2 to 4 minutes; turn gently and cook until browned on the other side and hot in the middle, 2 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer cakes as cooked to a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and keep warm in oven. Discard any remaining panko.
Divide cabbage salad among plates. Set crab cakes next to salad, top each with a dollop of tarragon aioli, and serve immediately, with remaining aioli in a bowl.
Nutritional analysis per crab cake.
Also appeared in:
Sunset, December, 2003
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