Thursday, August 24, 2006

Moroccan Crabcakes...Yummy stuff!

Several people have asked about a good recipe for crab cakes, something a little out of the usual Old Bay Seasoning East Coast crab cakes. And heaven knows I aim to please! I’ve been into the seasonings of North Africa lately, and I thought those spices would work marvelously with crab.

You can make these as a dinner entrée, serving two cakes per person. They would also work well on a first course salad, with one cake per person. Use the sauce as the dressing; just thin it a bit with a little more orange juice and a couple of tablespoons of good white wine vinegar. Another option would be to make tablespoon sized ones as a party appetizer. Yummy! Cook them ahead and reheat briefly in the oven at party time.

I served these with a lemon-scented rice pilaf. Couscous would have been more authentic, but I’m not a huge fan of couscous. As a side dish, I tossed thickly sliced carrots with olive oil and sprinkled them with equal parts of ground cardamom, ground coriander and kosher salt. I roasted them for about 15 minutes at 400F. They made the perfect accompaniment.

If at all possible, use fresh or pasteurized crabmeat. It isn’t necessary to use the hugely expensive jumbo lump. Backfin or “special” comprises the smaller pieces that result when lump meat is being picked from the crab body, and makes a great crab cake that won’t break the bank. I avoid canned crab if possible but then, I have a friend who maintains that “canned crab is better than no crab at all!”

However you serve them, I am sure your friends will love them as much as mine did!

Moroccan Inspired Crab Cakes

For the crab cakes:
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, including any green leaves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp each ground cumin, coriander and cardamom
1 tbsp ground turmeric
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 lb crab meat,
? cup mayonnaise
1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
1 cup panko crumbs, or more fresh breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil for frying

For the sauce:

1 orange, juice and finely grated zest
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 cup cilantro leaves, minced
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tiny pinch ground cloves

Cook the bell pepper and celery in the olive oil over medium heat until softened. Add the ginger, garlic and green onion. Cook and stir a couple more minutes. Add the spices and stir constantly for one minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Add the crab meat and two cups fresh breadcrumbs, the mayonnaise and lemon juice and zest. Measure out in level ? cups. You should have 12 crab cakes.

In a flat dish roll each in panko (for a crisper outside) or additional fresh crumbs. Place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and pat into cakes about 1/2” thick. Cover and chill until ready to cook, at least an hour and up to 8 hours.
Meanwhile, mix all sauce ingredients, cover and chill.

Add enough vegetable oil to a heavy skillet to just film the bottom. Heat over medium high heat until very hot. Add the crab cakes, in batches to avoid crowding, and cook until dark golden brown, turning once. Serve at once with the sauce. Serves 6 as a main course.

NOTE 1: If you are among those who hate cilantro, substitute fresh mint in the sauce. It will be equally tasty.

NOTE 2: One of the invited guests cancelled at the last minute, so I had a couple of the uncooked ones left. In the interest of culinary curiosity, I froze them, completely made but not cooked, on a baking sheet. When they were solid, I put them in plastic freezer bags. A few days later I pulled one out to see how it had fared. I let it thaw at room temperature for about half an hour, then proceeded to cook it as directed. Perfect! So you could make these well ahead. I love things you can make ahead!

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