The Most Versatile Cakes of All
Who doesn't love crabs or crab cakes? Luscious fresh crabmeat packed in a crispy crumbed skin. But fresh crab meat can be such a pain, involving as it does picking miniscule bits of the precious flaky meat from the smallest crevices of the crab's limbs. Hard work indeed, but often more than worth the effort.
I recently chanced upon an extremely versatile recipe that has quickly become a favourite in our household. It is from a book which I've owned for some time now but haven't really delved into until a few months ago. The New York Restaurant Cookbook packs 115 recipes, all of which are signature dishes from New York's most famous restaurants. Nobu's Black Cod with Miso is in there, as is Le Perigord's Rack of Lamb with White Beans and WD 50's Cherry Clafouti. I don't know why I waited so long to discover the gems within these pages, but I'm currently working my way through the flurry of post-in with which I've marked the recipes I'm gunning to try.
The famed '21' Club's Lobster Cake recipe is so versatile I've made them with all manner of shellfish. Delightfully piquant and spicy, they are extremely easy to make, even for a dinner party of more than 4 (have you tried picking crabs for 6?). I sometimes omit or use alternative ingredients since things like jalapeno peppers and flat leaf parsley aren't readily available at the average suburban supermarket here (I replace the jalepeno peppers with green chillis and sometimes do without the flat leaf parsley). I've used crabmeat, crayfish and prawns and in every variation, they've been wonderfully delicious. The book also provides a cucumber salad recipe to accompany the cakes, but both C and I aren't cucumber fans, so instead I make a citrus and fennel or rocket salad to go along with it.
1/2 jalapeno chilli or 1 green chilli (seeded if you don't want the heat)
1/2 cup minced red bell pepper
1/2 cup minced onion
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp hot sauce (tabasco)
2 tbsp lime juice
5 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp minced chives (I sometimes replace these with the white part of a spring onion)
1/2 tbsp minced flat leaf parsley
2 tsp coriander leaves
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 pound fresh cooked lobster/crayfish/prawn meat (cut into 1/2 inch pieces) or flaked crabmeat
1/2 cup soft fresh breadcrumbs
1 1/4 cups panko (Japanese white bread crumbs)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Heat a tbsp of oil in a saute pan and add the jalapeno, red bell pepper and onion. Season with salt and pepper and saute over low heat until the vegetables are soft and not brown. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine egg yolks, hot sauce and lime juice. Blend in the mayonnaise, mustard, the herbs, and the cayenne pepper. Now the soft bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of the panko, the shellfish meat, and the reserved sauteed vegetables.
Now spread the remaning panko on a deep plate or a pan and shape the cakes (you can use your hands or shape them in a circular mould or in tuna cans with the tops removed). Place the cakes on the panko and then sprinkle more panko on top to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and then saute over medium heat till golden brown.
To make the salad, segment an orange or ruby grapefruit, mix with rocket leaves or thinly sliced fennel and some fresh mint leaves. Dress with balsamic vinegar, some of the fruits' juices and olive oil.