crab cakes with an asian vibe

March 31st, 2009 · 44 Comments

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…

so then:

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…

Tags: asian · fish · seafood

44 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Heidi Robb // Mar 31, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    The photos are drawing me in way more than The Martha, and you’re exponentially more entertaining.

    Hmm, these sound really great on paper…

  • 2 Chris // Mar 31, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    You are such a flatterer.
    The crab cakes were very good.
    Cooking with you is always fun.

  • 3 Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer // Mar 31, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Explodes off the screen – WOW impressive!!

  • 4 Robert // Mar 31, 2009 at 10:00 pm


    I think it goes something like….’Kumbaya, my looooorrd, Kumbayaaaaaa.’

    Or something like that.

  • 5 Jesse // Apr 1, 2009 at 2:58 am

    Hahaha, I love that Chris cleans up so well. The cakes look delectable!! And I’m with you on the unnecessary fats that so many chefs incorporate into their dishes… they really ARE trying to kill us I think!!

  • 6 Donald // Apr 1, 2009 at 5:05 am

    I dunno. I am a serious purist when it comes to crab cakes. After having the best EVAR in Inner Harbor sooooo many times, it would be hard for me to get used to anything other than lump, Old Bay, minimal filler type deal.

    I am, however, piqued by the shrimp mousse as a binder though.

  • 7 maggie (p&c) // Apr 1, 2009 at 6:05 am

    What an interesting recipe! Always fun to try a new one with a friend who understands about experimenting in the kitchen.

  • 8 Peter // Apr 1, 2009 at 8:01 am

    I thought those spices seemed a little light. I would triple them and add a kaffir lime leaf for good measure.

    Have you tried yuzu miso? Add a little peanut butter and thin it down and you’ll forget about those silly butter sauces.

  • 9 cookiecrumb // Apr 1, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Looks marvelous, and now you know how to tweak it for next time, all by yourself. F’rinstance, I bet you could get by with a third of that shrimp mousse. And yes, amp up the spices.
    So inspiring.

  • 10 jim voorhies // Apr 1, 2009 at 10:39 am

    next thing you know, you’ll admit to watching Rachel Ray…..

  • 11 jim voorhies // Apr 1, 2009 at 10:39 am

    JUST KIDDING, claudia!

  • 12 Jack // Apr 1, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I’ve never been a big fan of crab cakes, but those look appetizing especially sitting on a bed of arugula which is my favorite green (actually I think it’s an herb). I have become a fan of “The Deadliest Catch” on Discovery channel. I might just try your recipe to celebrate the start of the new season on April 14. I hope you’re loving the new car. BURN RUBBER!!!

  • 13 rachel // Apr 1, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I like the sound and look of these neat crab cakes ( shaping with cutter idea =good) but like morphs into something bigger at the thought of them with caper butter. I will get around to making the crab cakes as I am intrigued, but the caper, shallot, butter thing is urgent. I am already thinking of the things I could serve that up with.

  • 14 Brooke // Apr 1, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Damn fine lookin’ cakes.

    Martha is probably the worst TV personality there is (aside from Rachael Ray, who is awful for the opposite reason), but darnit does she know a thing or two. Funny, you’d think prison would have brought her out of her shell a bit.

  • 15 darlene // Apr 1, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Like Peter, I also think the spices need to be multiplied. But in all honesty, lemongrass is not very good for infusing into fatty liquids, at least over short periods. Thai curry pastes use substantially more lemongrass but the resulting curry doesn’t taste overwhelmingly of lemongrass. I’ve also tried making lemongrass infused ice cream and to get a substantial lemongrass taste, it needs infusing for hours, preferably overnight.

    How about nixing the lemongrass and anise and using about 2 tbs (or more) curry paste (red, green, panang or massaman all work) plus grated ginger, if you like. Bigger flavors and cuts out the infusing step completely.

  • 16 lisaiscooking // Apr 1, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Can I tell you I spent the better part of this morning searching for yuzu juice? Had I found it, I’d use it for this.

  • 17 Lauren // Apr 1, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    those crab cakes look amazing. i will forgive them their martha connections.

  • 18 rebekka // Apr 1, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Good GOD that sounds perfect.

  • 19 krysta // Apr 1, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    you and martha sitting in a tree…

  • 20 Peter // Apr 2, 2009 at 3:35 am

    Nothing too freaky here, it amazes me how domestic Asian ingredients have become. Lemongrass and ginger are now in regular grocers, which is fine by me.

    Kick ass crab cakes are what these should be called…bravo sista!

  • 21 The Italian Dish // Apr 2, 2009 at 6:40 am

    This looks so incredible – the lemongrass thing makes my mouth water and I absolutely go crazy over caper sauce – you are so right with not having to go overboard with the cream and butter. That’s why it’s better to make stuff like this at home, where you can control the ingredients! I have to make these.

  • 22 goodfoodmatters // Apr 2, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Thanks for experimenting and sharing a crabcake recipe w/o breadcrumbs–for those who need the gluten-free—not my problem, mercifully—but I’ve got friends…

  • 23 Tracy W. // Apr 2, 2009 at 7:42 am

    So these are gorgeous. And sound unbelievable… Beautiful post. Good on you for cutting all that fat. You’re right. Crazy.

  • 24 SpinachTiger // Apr 2, 2009 at 8:53 am

    You just happened to have crabmeat on hand. I love that, because I LOVE crabcakes. Okay, I have to subscribe to you because I forget and go, “what’s claudia doing? And we still have to get together.

  • 25 Lynn // Apr 2, 2009 at 10:44 am

    I feel like we should hold hands around the campfire now.

    And I’m so with you on MS. Sick for a week and I’ll be damned if she wasn’t the best thing on during the day.

    That crustystuff on the crabcakes is begging to be crunched!

  • 26 Nicole // Apr 2, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Loving this! Any form of crab cake is delicious to me and lately I am just all over any Asian flavors too!

  • 27 we are never full // Apr 2, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    damn it all – i’m disappointed. as i was reading i started panting… loving each ingredient. thinking how this HAS to be a home-run. love the Asian flavors – but damn it it wasn’t as awesome as i thought. i feel depressed. i still think the sear on those cakes are PERFECT. it’s not easy to do it well.

  • 28 Marie // Apr 2, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Claudia, Thats some sear you got on those scallops! They look perfect even though you weren’t that happy with them. Really!!

  • 29 maris // Apr 2, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    I love crab cakes! They so remind me of summertime.

  • 30 Traci @ Soup of The Day // Apr 3, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    I know this will sound silly, but I love how perfectly shaped they are. I’m totally someone who likes neatness. I like my pantry lined up perfectly, with all labels facing forward – and grouped by food “kind.” I just like it how I like it. And those are some good looking crab cakes!

  • 31 Becky and the Beanstock // Apr 3, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    I love the sound of these. I’m very into Asian food right now — maybe because I’ve been eating vegan and it’s one cuisine that is full of flavor even when there’s no animal products involved. Still, only a week to go on this vegan thing and I just may make these beauties for breakfast on Easter Sunday!

  • 32 Becky and the Beanstock // Apr 3, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    PS — if you DO catch yourself watching Rachel Ray, please don’t tell us. I don’t think I could stand it.

  • 33 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Apr 4, 2009 at 6:34 am

    I could see making this at home for the hubby. He loves his crab cakes. I wonder if he’d balk a bit at the flavor explosion or decide he loves it. Thanks for sharing this.

  • 34 chefectomy // Apr 5, 2009 at 11:18 am

    So you know I love this – right? Taking something that is good but mediocre and throwing a little ethnicity at it to make it something great. Here is one I did:

    Nice job Claudia!


  • 35 lo // Apr 5, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Oh gosh, Woman. I am *SO* drooling. On my keyboard no less. Love the crab cakes, and I’m totally digging the Asian flare.

    I totally wish that I “just happened” to have a can of lump crab meat in the fridge :)

  • 36 Heather // Apr 6, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Crab cakes are in my top twenty. Maybe even my top ten, depending on the day. This is good enough to make me hungry again two hours after dinner.

  • 37 Kevin // Apr 7, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Those crab cakes looks really good!

  • 38 Jennifer // Apr 8, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Those crab cakes look great! I spent most every summer growing up at my grandparents in Virgina. They would get bushels of crab and my grammy made the best crab cakes…the ones you made look totally deluxe too!

    Thanks for sharing the recipe, I will have to put it on my to-do list for sure!

  • 39 ED // Apr 8, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    I think this is my favorite blog. Ok, besides the fact that your personal photo is stunning, your food is divine.

    If we lived near each other I’d be on your doorstep for these crab cakes.

    Your devoted reader,
    ED from AZ

  • 40 // Apr 9, 2009 at 10:44 am

    I can taste the lemongrass and ginger. How wonderful with crab – why of course! We’ll be covering shellfish cookery later this term (I’m a culinary school student) so I’ll have to experiment.


  • 41 naomi // Apr 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    They sound fantastic, even if the lemongrass doesn’t come through as much as you wanted – that crust! The crust alone had me salivating.

    I gave you a blog award – although I see you don’t display them I’m sure you have been proffered many. You can find it here:

    x x x

  • 42 Ethel // Apr 10, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Sure sounds like a winner to me. Butter,cream,and all the rest is leaving my taste buds wanting more. Great photo.

  • 43 Robin R. // Apr 10, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Really beautiful food. I admire the Asian flare as it’s something different. Thanks for another great post. You inspire me. How’s the diet?

  • 44 greg // Apr 17, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I’ve found the texture of making cakes like this is just… well, weird. Firm, yet spongy, all at the same time – like the worst, plastic-y tofu you’ve ever encountered. Now granted, I go a little differently and add bay scallops to the mix.

    Did you find anything unpleasant like that? ‘Cuz I’d love to start making these sort of things again, but seriously need a new technique.

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