Crab Cakes — Part II

A few months ago I wrote about the way I make crab cakes. It was a fairly traditional recipe using breadcrumbs, egg, and a little mayo as the binder.

That was the way I used to make crab cakes, because after last night’s experiment, I’m not going back. What did I do differently? I used a binder of scallop/shrimp mousse. Let me explain.

I first heard of using a seafood mousse as a binder in cakes last year in a discussion on eGullet. But I really didn’t think about this again until yesterday, when I had lunch with a chef friend, and our discussion focused on why so many places serve lousy crab cakes. She suggested for a binder using a mousse made mostly of scallops, with a bit of egg and cream added to help emulsify it all. She said that when the mousse cooks, it almost fades into the crab, so you end up with a crab cake that is almost all lumps of luscious crab meat, without any noticeable binder.

Well, I headed over to Whole Foods, got a pound of jumbo lump crab meat, half a pound of bay scallops, and 5 shrimp. I threw the scallops and shrimp in the food processor, added an egg, and began to whiz it up. I slowly added a few tablespoons of heavy cream, and the mixture started to look like a light mayonnaise. Some salt and pepper completed the mousse. I then folded the crab meat into this mousse and started worrying, because the mix appeared to be way too soft. After half an hour in the refrigerator, however, all was better.

I wet my hands and then proceeded to make 9 crab cakes from this mix, forming them and then rolling the cakes in panko flakes. Gently pan fry in the oil of your choice.

OH — MY — GOD !! This is crab cake nirvana. The mousse did indeed fade into the background, but the scallop flavor wasn’t all that noticeable. It was if the huge lumps of crab meat had found some magical glue to stick to each other. Mrs. Varmint ended up eating four of those suckers, and my 14 year old ate three.

So, if you want to spend a little extra money to serve the “crack” of crab cakes, then use a mousse with your jumbo lump. You might never be able to eat a regular old-fashioned crab cake again.

Crab Cakes — Nirvana Edition

  • 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
  • 1/2 pound bay scallops
  • 5-6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Panko flakes
  • Oil for frying

Add scallops, shrimp and egg to food processor and whiz until mostly smooth. Add salt and pepper, and then, with processor running, add the cream. Process until mixture thickens to a mayonnaise like consistency. Gently fold crab into the mousse. Refrigerate mixture for at least 30 minutes.

Add about 1/2″ oil in skillet and bring to medium to medium-high heat. While oil is heating, form crab cakes, making sure your hands are wet. I used an ice cream scoop to help with portion control. Roll the cakes in panko flakes, place on plate, and gently flatten a bit.

Pan fry the crab cakes in the heated oil until a slightly dark golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve however you want, because these are the best damn tasting things ever.

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11 Responses to Crab Cakes — Part II

  1. Huber says:

    Except for the panko flakes (which one can get around easily or substitute; I’ve gotten to where I generally just leave off breading when I’m pan frying), this has the added benefit of being gluten-free. My wife will thank you – she loves crabcakes!

  2. Teran says:

    Wow..that sounds soo good. I’m a bit of a crabcake snob, so I am def going to have to try this recipe..it sounds so good!

  3. Dana says:

    Ha ha ha!! I love the emotion behind all of this. :) I’m not a seafood guy but even this sounds good.

  4. Pam says:

    Sounds yummy! I will def’ly be trying this soon!

  5. As part of the DC/MD/VA diaspora that lives here in Raleigh, I am very excited to try this and potentially get a good crab cake out of it. Now if I could just get a bushel of steamed crabs in Raleigh…help me Varmint!

  6. Joe says:

    God, this sounds good. :)

    PolPorn: I can tell you where in Durham, but not Raleigh. Sorry.

  7. Joe – I’ll drive to Durham for steamed crabs, heck I’ll hoof it if I have to.

  8. who says:

    hey varmint. that is how we bind the crabcakes at the mint, but i will remind everyone that making crabcakes in this manner can get to be a little pricey. making one or two is no biggie but making a lot of them can add up. we actually use scallops and mayonnaise to make a mousse, add our aromatics (citrus zest, shallots, mustard seed, tripepper confetti, etc), then fold in our crab meat (domestic unpasturized jumbo lump, of course.)the advantage is having a full protein, no filler, crabcake, all crabby flavor. fantastic…

  9. Varmint says:

    Oh, anyone who thinks that using scallops instead of bread crumbs will result in an equal-priced crab cake is delusional. Assuming you’re starting with jumbo lump, which you can find at 22 bucks a pound at some places, and added bay scallops at a few dollars a pound (from the local Asian supermarkets), it’ll cost you a pretty penny. But damn, it’s worth it.

  10. detlef says:

    We use shrimp as a binder for a number of things. Pretty amazing stuff, really.

  11. gloria's daughter says:

    thanks for the mousse help for crab cakes. I had lost my recipe in my mother’s attic & could not go back after Katrina. It was hand-written by a major retired chef from Plaquemines parish & used shrimp mousse as a binder

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