back in the days of no car and a 12 lb puppy (also known as early march ’09), i was home watching martha stewart. which honestly, i hardly ever do. but let’s face it, she gets the best guests. chef after chef they make the pilgrimage to the martha from a wide array of great restaurants, shooting the breeze with the quintessential homemaker – who is perhaps the worst interviewer/conversationalist on tv – while they cook up rather remarkable food. and i am here to tell you, it can totally draw you into the martha vortex. you, meaning me. or us – if you’d like to join in.
anyway i was younger then – and it was raining. and on that day the shows theme was ‘atlanta’, which although only a 4 hour drive from nashville, is one i rarely take. but i hear the atlanta restaurant scene is damn fine, which then naturally conjures up all kinds of longing. envy. gluttonous thoughts. you name a deadly sin and i’ve conjured it.
so, the chef from ‘repast‘ was on martha, doing an interesting version of crab cakes. and i just happened to have a pound of jumbo lump meat sitting in my refrigerator along with nearly every other ingredient – except the lemongrass and the raw shrimp which were easy purchases.
mostly easy because chris picked them up on his way over. i literally willed the ingredients to my door.
cooking with chris is truly wonderful because for the most part he does everything. and i like that in a sous chef. plus he’s way better with a knife than i will ever be. and he also cleans up really nicely. and i mean – my kitchen.
crab cakes tend to be bound with varying amounts of breadcrumbs and i loved the fact that these are held together with a shrimp mousse. but what initially sparked my interest was quite simply that the overall ingredient list screams huge flavor burst. and i am nothing if not a fan of the flavor burst. actually perhaps i am a slave to the flavor burst. i’ll need to contemplate which of those rings more true and i’ll be sure to report back.
1 cup heavy cream (i used half and half)
1-inch piece lemongrass, crushed
1-inch piece ginger, crushed
1 star anise
1 dried birdseye chile, crushed
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 pound fresh medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large egg
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked
zest of 2 lemons
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
come on… does that not sound just lovely? but listen, i had to lean it down a bit by making a different dairy decision. half and half is about as much fat as i can bear. i think using cream would be the way to go if only i lived in an alternate universe and wanted that fattier mouthfeel – but not for me. not that day. maybe not ever. although it could happen. tomorrow. because the flesh, it is weak in the face of fat grams…
place cream, lemongrass, ginger, star anise, and chile in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. remove from heat and let cool; strain, discarding solids. stir in fish sauce and tabasco; set aside.
heat sesame oil and olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. add scallions and cook until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. remove from heat; let cool.
place shrimp and egg in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. with the machine running, slowly add cream mixture; process until well combined.
In a large bowl, mix together crabmeat, lemon zest, and cooled scallions. gently fold in shrimp mixture.
line a baking sheet with parchment paper (i used a silpat) and sprinkle with cornmeal. place a 1-inch high round cutter about 2 1/2-inches in diameter on baking sheet. fill cutter with crabmeat mixture, packing down slightly. repeat process until all crabmeat has been used, about 8 times. transfer to refrigerator to chill, 6 to 8 hours.
preheat oven to 350 degrees. heat butter and canola oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. place crab cakes, cornmeal-side down in skillet and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. turn crab cakes and transfer skillet to oven (i never did this) until cornmeal side is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. serve immediately with butter sauce.
and we’re talking yuzu caper butter sauce. ok, so i am down with a little butter sauce. afterall, it’s just a. little. butter sauce. but no. chef joe truex’s recipe is using well over a pound of butter for 4 people. after using a cup of heavy cream in the cakes. sorry chef. no can do. so we improvised and used about 1/3 of that, cut into some yuzu juice, capers and shallots. and it was more than plenty. crazy freakin’ chefs… they are trying to kill us. i swear… so unnecessary.
all in all it was a good dish although i’m not running to make it again. the shrimp mousse was a fine idea and good for future reference. it would translate well to any number of seafood related cakes or stuffings. i suppose my biggest issue was that i didn’t pick up much of the spice infusion flavoring in the finished product, and that was somewhat disappointing. so next time i’d hit it a bit harder to get the flavors more pronounced.
but it was different. and interesting. and it brought me and martha closer together and quite frankly, we needed that.
and well, chris cleaned up so very nicely. it was almost like it never happened…