Sharing recipes that are good for the body, soul, and budget!
The following is an actual recipe as I emailed it to a good friend several years ago. I’m sure I didn’t invent this thing, but I first thought it up in late 2005 while reading about crab cakes (I was looking up something to do with Phillip’s Lump Crab Meat, which I had just discovered at the Commissary). Living in England at the time, I had access to both fresh and frozen seafood of all varieties. I must say though, that Phillip’s stuff in tins is really quite good. As I say, this started as an email (actually, two emails, one quoting the other at length). I’ve adapted the text as necessary to make it a bit more… presentable, but left the original as much as possible for giggles. And no, I’m not British. Between “Recipe:” and “---Start new part---,” I was writing an email to a British colleague in my best Dick van Dyke accent. My wife is British. She’s my technical advisor.
With that, dear reader, let us get to the meat of the matter.
Alright, dude. I found it. I really didn't want to write it again, but I ended up adding a bunch of stuff anyway. Here, then, are the best fried seafood patties I have ever eaten. Anywhere. I know it's my recipe but that’s OK: I'm really good. Because I cannot say I've ever had a better "croquet."
Crab cakes my way (Rex's Seafood Cakes is probably a better name):
Makes four medium-sized patties:
- Crab meat, maybe 250 grams (1/2 pound-ish)...more or less, depending on amounts of other ingredients...amount not critical, mainly for consistency, plus the flavour, of course. Get quality lump meat if you can.
- Prawns, about 12 medium. Maybe around 5cm (2 inches) long. Take the digestive tract out and cut into chunks (the prawns, not the digestive tracts - throw those out). I cut them into three or four chunks because I like the meaty texture. Work with it to figure out how you like it best.
- Bread crumbs. I use fresh (vice stale) white, take off the crusts. It needs two slices usually, but depends on various factors...thickness of bread, amount of other ingredients. Once you figure out the consistency and degree of wetness needed, you'll know whether to add more crumbs.
- Spring (green) onion - 1 or 2, depends how much you like onion. Chop finely (or not finely, depends how you want it). Finely is good because this allows better control of the texture so the cakes will not fall apart when cooking. Could also use a shallot, I suppose. Or you could leave it off altogether, up to you. Garlic might even work, if you like garlic (we do, but I haven't tried it in this dish because the cakes don't cook long enough to make the garlic very mild, and semi-cooked garlic would be too strong for the other flavours, in my opinion).
- Cilantro - don't really know the amount. I just use some, normally quite a lot, maybe two or three tablespoons (fresh). If you don't like cilantro, don't use it. Or use parsley. Or nothing green, whatever. I don't recommend going to basil or anything, as this is more Asian than Italian...I stick to non-Italian things for these.
- An egg - just, well, smash it in there with your hands. May need more or less, depending.
---Start new part---
Make up the mixture in a large bowl, then refrigerate for a bit to… you probably know all this. It needs to be stiff to get it shaped. So you need to get it cold again after working it. I tend to shape the cakes after that, then chill the finished product yet again for 5 or 10 minutes while I get some flour down to fry them and heat the oil. Season the flour, lightly coat the cakes, shake off excess flour, then fry those babies in whatever fat you like. I use canola because I always have it around. I have used olive oil but it costs more, and apart from the health aspect I don't notice a difference. I mean, it tastes the same. Oh, I fry these over medium flame, maybe a little hotter. And not in deep oil, just a little more than coating the pan. If you make this exactly as written, the cakes will be pretty thick (or really wide - crab pancakes?). Time is needed to cook the shrimp inside, so too hot will burn the flour.
I always make a sweet chili jam for this. 2 TBLS water, 2 TBLS mirin (I just use any old rice vinegar), and 100 grams of sugar (3.5 ounces - it looks like a lot of sugar when you first put it in; don’t worry). Get the sugar integrated over medium heat, then add some chopped red chili (or green, whatever you like). I like Thai chilis. Sometime I add a habanero or two for color. You decide how many and how hot. I normally use 5-6 medium-sized hot ones. Just dice the chilis, throw them in the saucepan, and cook it until it looks good for dipping. Oh, turn the heat down after you put in the chilis. If you leave it high (er, medium), be prepared to take it off the heat and eat immediately. As a lollipop. It will turn to hard candy if you leave it too long. Hot, spicy, gooey candy. Seriously, drop the heat to medium low and let the chilis cook that way. And pay attention to it. But you understand simple syrup, so I'm wasting words here. You will know when it's ready. One note: I recommend decanting from the cooking vessel into a glass bowl or some such before it actually reaches the consistency you want. It'll thicken a little after that. And don't let it cool too much before serving.
OK, the cake recipe itself I wrote for a British colleague of mine at the time. She wasn't a good cook (according to her, at least - and she never brought food to the unit functions), but she was trying to improve. She saw me eating one of my leftover crab cakes at work one day and asked where I had gotten it. So, I ended up telling her the recipe via email.
That's why the wording at the top might come off as over-simplified. The mixing it part and the chili jam part I just wrote. I hope it didn't seem as condescending.
This is my riff on crab cakes. I googled them (because I had some crab and other seafood), and just did some thinking and changing, came up with this. I don't know that I've ever made crab cakes another way. I suppose if I were in Maryland I might just use all crab (so the purists wouldn't lynch me). But I'm not in Maryland (the Brits pronounce it Mary Land - really. All of them do. Mary was their queen, you see). I figured if crab cakes are good (and they are), then crab cakes with chunks of shrimp in them would be better. In my view, I was right. Your mileage may vary. But if you want to see a rabbit slap a hound dog, give the rabbit one of these. They're that good. If I do say so myself.
As I said at the beginning, I am pretty sure some other person has done this. I didn’t see it when I was searching for crab cake recipes so as far as you and I know, I invented the damn thing. (h/t Mr. Scott for the phrasing suggestion)
Just go on Altavista (or whatever the kids are doing these days to find stuff on the internet) and search crab cakes and let your mind take you places your stomach wants to go. This was my biggest success ever at trying a new food idea. At risk of sounding my own horn too loudly: These cakes are truly brilliant. I’m not asking for money or recognition. Just trying to help you enjoy life.
I couldn’t find a photograph I’ve taken of these lightly fried wonders of the sea. Some will suggest using the oven for part of the cooking. Balderdash, I say! You need to keep eyes on this so you know exactly when they are Golf, Bravo, and Delta. Enjoy!
File photo (from here because this is where I found the image. I didn’t read this recipe and do not vouch for it):
It isn’t as complicated as I wrote it. Give it a try. These things are absolutely delicious.
Yours in truly delectable fried foods,
P.S. Crab cakes for lunch at work: Yes, I’m the guy who nuked fish products at the office. - The Master Sergeant
I’m going to tell you a story now, but that’s mostly just fluff. If you don’t care about my discursive and verbose meanderings, skip to the end. It’s going to blow your mind.
If you know me, you know I’m shy and don’t like talking about myself very much. Be that as it may, I will share this part of my greatness with you all. I am nothing if not a humanitarian. And an outstanding cook, of course.
I am not unversed in fine dining. I’ve eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world (opinions vary), I’ve had tons of mediocre stuff (as have we all), and I’ve eaten things that even I question whether they are actually food. Oo, pare.
I have been known to reach for and attain success at some pretty high-class dishes myself. I once made cutlets of a pork tenderloin, topped them with two different compound butter discs I made, shaped, and froze. I then cooked them in a really hot, terrifying oven for some interminable amount of time (they were lovely).
I also make crab cakes that people beg me to do again (and to tell them the recipe for). And I will, every time. I love food, and I think everyone should. And ask me about my monkfish tails stuffed with shrimp and wrapped in prosciutto then baked until it makes sex seem unimportant (at least for a few minutes). Or fresh figs split and stuffed with buffalo mozzarella then wrapped with prosciutto, drizzled with extra virgin oil, and baked for a few minutes. Look it up on your favorite search engine if need be, but that is the basic idea. It’s easy enough that I figured it out.
You know what isn’t easy? Gumbo. But I can make Cajuns wonder what they’ve been doing wrong. I’m from round here, y’all.
And if you want a properly cooked duck breast or an egg-yolk raviolo? OK, let’s talk terms. Anyway, let’s move on to the reason I’m writing this (other than just bragging about some excellent stuff I’ve cooked and ignoring all my mistakes)...
I don’t pretend to be a Mexican food expert. I’m not even all that much of a Mexican food lover (yeah, yeah - don’t @ me). But one thing I always keep on hand is 6-inch flour tortillas. Hear me out.
When I moved to this place I live now (the only house I’ve ever co-owned (with a bank)), I knew there was an electric hob / cooktop (I call it a hob, so that’s what it will be from here out) here, so I arranged for a new cooker to be installed here. I also had to get the gas company to come connect the line. That was expensive ‘butt’ amusing (*nods toward Dawn*). And totally worth it.
If you have a gas hob and a small flour tortilla (and you really should), you have options far beyond a grilled cheese or a cold cut sammich. You still have those options, of course. This is America; eat whatever you like. But my view of sammich snack-food nirvana is a flour tortilla roasted over a flame, preferably on my hob. Because my hob has cast iron grates and makes for lovely heat distribution on a flatbread. And that char cannot be beat.
I do savory ones sometimes with just cold cuts and / or slices of cheese (not that ‘American cheese food’ stuff, laws no). I use catfish I thawed and baked, leftover roast beef sliced thin… all sorts.
But one of my favorite uses of flour tortillas is to make a dessert. A particular gem is fig preserves and jalapeño cream cheese spread inside a really toasty tortilla. It doesn’t look much, but that’s down to my crap phone camera skills. It’s delicious:
Something about the fire and the softness of the flour tortillas means the bread just browns / blackens exactly how I want it to be. And once I flip it and let it singe for a bit on the B side, I just let it sit there on the hot cast iron grate while I put on whatever topping I’m using at the time.
If you gotten this far, you’ve realized this whole piece was about telling you to get a gas hob. Oh, and to always keep small flour tortillas on hand. I forgot to mention I am a pretty good cook. But that’s for another time.