Chili Crab Cakes


Chili Crab Cakes

Mark Bittman, in his book How To Cook Everything, had a recipe for Crab Cakes that sounded good, except for a few ingredients I didn't like. After a few experiments, I came up with a variation I really like.

I replace the plain green bell pepper with a chili pepper, such as an Anaheim or a Poblano or a combination of both. They are both mild peppers, with the Poblano being the hotter of the two. The pepper doesn't make it spicy, but definitely kicks up the flavor. I also replace the optional curry powder with Ancho chili powder. Ancho is another very mild, but very flavorful chili.

I also change a few of the directions. I've found that mixing the crab with the wet ingredients at the same time, the way he recommends, makes it very difficult to get an even coating. Mixing the wet ingredients first, then folding in the dry, makes for a more uniform mixture.

Chardonnay is the perfect accompaniment. When choosing a wine pairing for a rich food like crab, you can either accent the richness with a full bodied wine, or try to cut the richness with a lighter, high acidity wine. As far as I'm concerned, going rich is the only way to compliment this dish.

The types of Chardonnay I recommend are a little atypical for me. I don't usually go for the classic California style (tropical, buttery, oaky) with food, but here's the exception. The tropical flavors in a  warm weather Chardonnay play beautifully off the spice of the chili peppers. The texture is also just about perfect.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Pound Fresh Lump Crabmeat, checked for stray cartilage
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Chili Pepper (either Anaheim or Poblano or a combination of both), Very Finely Chopped.
  • Cup Chopped Scallion (approximately 5 regular sized scallions)
  • Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • Cup Fresh Bread Crumbs (a few chunks of french bread in the food processor)
  • 1 Teaspoon Ancho Chili Powder
  • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • Salt and Black Pepper
  • Vegetable Oil for Frying (preferably peanut or canola)
Directions:
  1. Add the egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper  to a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  2. Add the chili pepper and scallions. Mix to coat.
  3. Add the crabmeat. Fold in using a rubber spatula. Mix as little as possible, but make sure all the crabmeat is coated. 
  4. Add the bread crumbs. Fold in enough to make a mixture that is thick enough to form into patties.
  5. Form into 8 cakes about an inch thick. If the patties are too large, they won't hold together during cooking.
  6. Refrigerate the cakes for half an hour or more. This too will help them hold together during cooking.
  7. Add a teaspoon of salt to the flour. Also add black pepper to taste. Stir.
  8. In a heavy skillet large enough to hold a batch of your patties (4, 6 or all 8, depending on how large a skillet you own), heat a inch of oil. Obviously, the larger the skillet, the more oil you will need.
  9. When the oil reaches the proper frying temperature (a drop of water sizzles almost immediately).
  10. Coat the crab cakes with flour right before placing into the oil.
  11. Place the cakes into the oil gently. Cook in batches if necessary, but do not crowd.
  12. Cook for about five minutes, until the bottoms show a rich, golden brown.
  13. Turn, and cook until both sides are the same golden brown.
Serve with your favorite summer side dishes. When I retested this recipe, I served up corn on the cob and homemade cole slaw. Of course, you should wash it down with a ripe Chardonnay.


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