Face it guys. Most of us are, or think we are, masters of the grill. But when its 40 degrees outside and the wind is blowing a gale, grilling is not much fun, tailgate parties excepted. And many of us know how to throw a roast in the oven, make chowder, steam oysters, or make deer sausage and burgers. But what about a real dinner--something that looks like a gourmet dinner. A presentation for your wife if they've had a bad week, or more importantly, if you golfed all day or came home at 3AM.
I published this in another blog I collaborated on, but wanted to run it again.
I offer a recipe that my sister gave me, which is actually on the back of a package of Old Bay Crab Cake mix.
Click on it to enlarge, and what you see is all you have to do. The hardest part is picking good crab meat. First, you need jumbo lump, not back fin or other choices. In the summer, you can buy it here at many of the local seafood stores, such as Austin's or Billy's, but make sure its real jumbo lump, and try to find out if it has a lot of shell or cartilage. If it does, you'll have to remove those, wash them, and take more time to drain off the water. Ignore the tarter sauce part of the instructions, I can't imagine putting that stuff on a crab cake.
Although expensive, about $30/lb, the "Teeter" and others sell Phillips' (of Baltimore fame) in a 1 lb. tin, which is exactly the amount you need to make four or six cakes. One option if you live, say, in Utah. Local seafood stores are easily $10 less per pound.
Dump the crab meat in a colander, preferably one with a handle so you can gently toss the meat so all of the excess water drains. This is important since there is NO filler in these cakes. Excess water makes them harder to form and maintain that form. Drain them for 15-20 minutes.
While the meat is draining, preheat the oven on BROIL. What for the light to go out. If your oven is slow to achieve temperature, start this process before you drain the crab meat.
Now, open the package of Old Bay Crab Cake mix and dump it in a deep and wide mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. For some reason, I've had bad luck with my favorite mayo, Dukes--the cakes don't seem to hold together well. So I use Hellman's. Stir with a spoon until the mayo and the Old Bay mix is thoroughly blended.
Now add the drained crab meat, and gently dig in with your hands and coat the meat thoroughly with the mixture. It should like this:
Time to form the cakes with your hands. The directions say to make six cakes, but I find these too small and hard to hold together. I usually make four cakes, with comes to a hearty 1/4 lb. per cake. They are about the size of a baseball. Pack 'em tight. When done, put them in a shallow baking pan, cover with foil, spray the foil with Pam, and add a thin sliver of real butter on each one.
Now, once your oven is pre-heated, place these on the center rack for five minutes..no more, no less.
After five minutes, take them out, gently flip them (if you did a good job "packing" them when you formed the cakes, you can actually roll them). Be real careful here...with no filler it's easy to break up the cake. I use the world's smallest spatula to accomplish this delicate operation.
Add another pat of butter to the top of each cake, and broil for five more minutes--no more, no less. You should see each side as you go through the process slightly brown..if a few spots get a little blackened, that's OK. If you see a lot of blackening, take 'em out and flip 'em.
When done, they should look like this...
By now, you've maybe used up 20 minutes prepping, and 10 minutes to broil the cakes. What about the rest of the meal? You can make a salad, which should take about 1 minute if you buy the pre-packaged salads. Also, get two small packages of frozen chopped spinach--the kind in pouches that have "just enough liquid to cook" on the label. That's about a 10 minute microwave operation, so start them when you broil the cakes. Add some frozen Texas sized garlic bread, 5 minutes in a toaster oven, and your done. You can easily get all three parts going at the same time.
When you plate it all, this is what you have. The balsamic you see goes on the spinach--it's awesome! Another idea I picked up from sis.
Any light beer will go with this, but if you want wine, you'll need something that compliments the slightly rich nature of the cakes (from the mayo and the crab meat). A nice Chardonnay; slightly oaky and creamy, will go well. I chose this one, which usually sells under $15.
These taste great, and the whole operation takes about 30 minutes and requires no real kitchen skills. All you need to buy is the mayo, the crab meat, and the Old Bay crab mix and two boxes of frozen spinach. Once you make these, you'll be far more critical of many of the crab cakes served in local restaurants. Too often there is filler in them--bread crumbs, celery, onions, bell peppers-- in order to spread out the crab meat. Just as often, the crab meat is back fin or even other parts of the blue crab--little bits of crab mixed in with all that filler. The Old Bay or other spices makes the cake taste good, but there's really not much crab flavor to the food since there isn't much crab
Try these guys--and impress the wife. Or get out of the doghouse.