Monday, June 27, 2011

Canal House Crab Cakes

Two weeks ago, I went on an inexplicable seafood kick here in the Commissary, cooking up roasted tilapia, trout tartare (see June 2010 posting), and a new recipe for me: crab cakes. Now, I can't say that I've eaten very many crab cakes in my life (probably less than 50), so I'm hardly a connoisseur; however, I did hear at some point through the foodie grapevine that the true sign of a high-quality crab cake is more crab, less filler. One thing I liked about the crab cake recipe that I found in the Wall Street Journal (other than its relative simplicity) is that it seems to meet this criterion, involving only a mere 8 Ritz crackers as the sole filler for 12 cakes. The formula comes courtesy of the ladies at the Canal House, not a restaurant, but a test studio of sorts for cookbooks in suburban New Jersey, and can be found here:
Canal House Crab Cakes.

This culinary creation marks my inaugural foray into using Old Bay seasoning (a staple of East Coast seafood cooks), which I discovered actually has a pretty decent spice jolt to it, especially when the recipe calls for 2 tsp. of it (note to self - tone it down a little next time). For the crab, I bought a good-sized tin of imported lump crab claw meat (from Indonesia, if I'm not mistaken) that was resting peacefully in my ethnic grocer's seafood display case, not getting a lot of takers at $18.99 for a 1-pound can (fortunately, I got a good deal on tilapia and trout to offset some of the financial burn). When assembling the cakes before frying, the Canal House ladies advise chilling them for an hour or two so as to minimize the likelihood of disintegration (they're not just whistling Dixie, as it turns out - without much filler for structural support, the raw cakes are VERY loose). Chilling completed, I plopped them into my hot frypan, letting them sizzle for a good few minutes, then went to flip them over....and promptly watched almost all of them fall apart, resulting in more like crab hash than cakes. This made me angry. Angrier, in fact, than I'd been in the Commissary for quite a while, and my kids got to hear several choice words that they'd otherwise been shielded from up to this point for the most part. Where did I go wrong? Maybe the pan wasn't hot enough? Did I take them out of the fridge too soon or let them warm up too much before cooking? Is collapse perhaps a common problem with crab cakes, as Mrs. Hackknife postulated? We can only guess at this point. Tastewise, they were fine, if not a bit spicy from the Old Bay, so apparently I just need to work on my technique for next time.

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