Indispensable crab cakes celebrate Dungeness

A local, French-inspired bistro’s macaroni and cheese furnished one of my first tastes of this season’s Dungeness crab.

Although there were several plump fry legs topping the gratin with plenty more shredded crab and caramelized bacon, I hardly got my fill. Usually this late in the new year, my family already should have spent some time on the South Coast partaking in the seasonal bounty of fresh-caught Dungeness. But we’re still waiting for an ideal travel window.

Our family crab feeds, mentioned in previous posts, are purist affairs. Just firm, succulent crabs, still warm from the pot; tables lined with paper towels atop newspapers to soak up all the juice; a few sturdy utensils designed for dismantling shellfish; some slabs of garlic toast for variety; and lots and LOTS of melted butter (Tabasco optional).

Once we’ve eaten our fill, at least a couple of crabs remain, often earmarked for our family-favorite Creamy Crab and Egg Bake. When I bring a portion home to the Rogue Valley, the sky’s the limit: pasta, wontons, fried rice, salads or any dish that shows off the crab and, therefore, justifies my effort to pick it from the shells.

This crab cake recipe, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press, is an indispensable Pacific Northwest rendition that definitely takes crab to the next level.

Sizzling Dungeness Crab Cakes

Tribune News Service photo

Crab Cakes:

1/4 cup butter

3 tablespoons minced onions

3 tablespoons minced carrots

3 tablespoons minced celery

2 tablespoons minced yellow bell peppers

2 tablespoons minced red bell peppers

2 tablespoons minced green bell peppers

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 pound Dungeness crabmeat (or favorite crabmeat)

1 egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups flour

1 2/3 cups egg wash (3 eggs mixed with 1 cup milk)

4 cups panko breadcrumbs (Japanese breadcrumbs)

3/4 cup clarified butter

Thai Sweet-and-Sour Sauce:

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon peeled and minced, fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon finely minced garlic

Thai Beurre Blanc Sauce:

1 cup white wine

2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

1 tablespoon finely minced shallots

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 cups butter, unsalted, cut into 2-inch chunks

1/2 teaspoon salt, sea or kosher

1 cup Thai sweet-and-sour sauce (from recipe above)

To prepare the crab cakes: Heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery and bell peppers, saute until tender. Add the heavy cream and let volume reduce slightly. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and let it cool for 5 minutes.

Add the crabmeat, egg yolk, pepper and salt.

Put the flour, egg wash and panko breadcrumbs in 3 separate pans for breading procedure.

Portion and form crab-cake mix into 24 (1-ounce) balls.

Start breading process by first dusting crab-cake ball with flour. Quickly dip crab-cake ball into egg wash and then place into panko crumbs. Gently press and mold crumbs into cake, forming a 1/2-inch-thick, round patty.

Heat the clarified butter in a sauté pan over medium heat, and pan-fry crab cakes on both sides until exterior is golden-brown. Remove crab cakes from pan and keep warm.

To prepare the Thai sweet-and-sour sauce: In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 4 tablespoons water, mix well and set mixture aside.

Combine all the other ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until sauce reaches 180 F. Add cornstarch mixture and cook for 5 minutes or until sauce has a slightly thick texture.

To prepare the Thai beurre blanc sauce: In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the wine, vinegar and shallots and reduce volume to a light syrup consistency, for about 10 minutes. Add the cream and reduce volume by about half over medium-high heat.

Slowly add and whip in the butter cubes over low heat until they are melted. Strain sauce through a fine-mesh strainer, then add the salt and the Thai sweet-and-sour sauce.

To serve: Sauce front of each of 8 plates with Thai beurre blanc sauce. Transfer and arrange 3 crab cakes around outer edge of each plate on sauce. Garnish plates with pickled ginger and daikon radish sprouts. Makes 8 servings.

Recipe from John Howie, Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar, Bellevue, Wash.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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