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Crab Cakes with Rémoulade Sauce

From time to time, canned lump crabmeat is on sale and I never pass it up. True, the canned stuff is pasteurized and the fresh is more delicate in flavor, but convenience and price often rule.  Besides, if you buy the best grade, labeled lump, jumbo or backfin and avoid all others, you will have a great product that will hold well in the fridge until you're ready to open the can and make something of it.  Years ago, most roadside cafes had fried crab cakes on the menu.  The stuff is so expensive now that only fine dining restaurants prepare fresh crabmeat cakes in portion sizes suitable for the dinner menu.  The good news is that they are easy to prepare and can be made at home at great savings. 

The key to making good crab cakes is to prepare a "binder" that serves to hold the crab meat together in a patty while imparting a little seasoning and nothing else. The "cake" in crab cake refers to shape only.  The binder mix should not be cake-like or heavy, lest the crabmeat flavor gets lost and the whole mess gets tough.  The roadside cafe chef,  loaded the crabmeat with lots of bread crumbs to stretch the crabmeat and to insure that the patties held together while his brother Earl, the line cook, tossed them about in the frying pan for fifteen minutes.  There are better ways. 

I have three crab cake recipes in my Chef's Repertoire--one from school that uses a scallop mousse as a binder, one from a visiting chef at school that uses mayo and Old Bay seasoning (which I tired of 10 years ago), and the third, presented here, a combination of my best results over the years.  I use "ring molds" to apportion and shape the crab cakes and then hold them in the fridge for two hoours to help set the egg in the binder. 

Crab Cakes
See abbreviations if needed 
Yield:  6 crab cakes (3 dinner servings 

  •   l lb        lump crabmeat, drained
  •   1           egg, whisked
  •   1T         Dijon mustard
  •   4           dashes of mild hot sauce, like Tennessee Sunshine (not Tabasco) 
  •   1t          Worchester Sauce
  •   2T        chopped fresh parsley
  •   S/P       TT
  •   5-6T     "Panko" (Japanese-style bread crumbs) preferred, or fresh bread crumbs
  •   1/4C     Wondra flour or AP flour, if sautéing  (Wondra browns better)
  •   2T         butter or EVOO if sautéing

  • 1.  In a SSB, whisk together all the ingredients except the bread crumbs, flour and butter 
    2.  Add the crabmeat and gently fold it into the binding mixture 
    3.  Add the bread crumbs and gently fold again 
    4.  Hand shape into six even-weight patties, or pack tightly into six 60 mm ring molds 
    5.  Chill in the fridge for two hours
    6.  To sauté: 
  •   Dust cakes with flour while still in the molds 
  •   Heat the pan to medium high, melt in some butter or drizzle in some EVOO then
    hold each mold over the hot pan and carefully push each crabcake out of the mold and onto the pan
    Brown and saute each side for about four minutes
    7.  To bake: 
  •   Do not flour
  •   Carefully remove the molds
  •   Place cakes on an oiled baking sheet pan 
  •   Bake at 400F for about 10 minutes

  • 8.  Dust with a little red spicy powder, of choice 
    9.  Serve with a mayo-based sauce such as Tartar Sauce, Wasabi Mayo, Red Pepper Mayo or Rémoulade Sauce 
    NOTE:  This recipe works well with smoked salmon.  Delete the parsley and add 2 teaspoons cream style horseradish and 4 to 6 grinds of freshly ground Telecherry peppercorn.

    Rémoulade Sauce 
    Mayonnaise is very popular (Hellmann's and Trader Joe's are very good US brands). However, sauces based on mayo are heavy and loaded with calories and fat.  Worse still, when served on the side, diners tend to use a lot of it.  Sour cream has 1/3 the calories of mayo and is lighter on the palette, so when serving this sauce on the side, I make it about 4 parts mayo and 3 parts sour cream.  Too much sour cream and it gets runny. 

    See abbreviations if needed 
    Yield:  8 servings 

  •   1/2C      mayonnaise
  •   3oz        sour cream
  •   1T          Dijon mustard
  •   2t           capers, drained and chopped
  •   2            cornichon (or small gherkin) pickles, very finely diced
  •   1T          fresh parsley, chopped
  •   1T          fresh tarragon
  •   1t           anchovy paste
  •   pepper   TT 
  •   No salt  (anchovy paste is loaded with it)
  •   juice       of 1/2 small lemon, not too much, taste and add

  • 1.  Mix all together, cover and refrigerate 
    2.  Serve at room temperature as a side for crab cakes or other fish 
    A nicer and smoother sauce can be made more quickly using a stick blender.
    Hold the cornichons , blend the rest of the ingredients and then add them. 

    Our fish monger, Gary at American Seafood recently had beautiful salmon filets with luminous silver skin and a fresh inviting smell.  Had to have it.  I grilled it using only EVOO and salt and pepper. For a sauce, I thought of making this Rémoulade but the mustard and anchovy paste in it didn't sound good.  So, I substituted 2 teaspoons of horse radish for the mustard and deleted the anchovy paste. It worked.  We thought it was quite complimentary. 


    Rémoulade Sauce: Hold the Mayo . .

    Rémoulade is a classic French mayonnaise-based sauce that goes great with soft shell crabs and crab cakes. I always serve it as a side in 2 ounce individual sauce boats. However, sauces based on mayo are heavy, almost cloying and loaded with calories (1 ounce of mayo equals 200 calories, all of it fat).  My standing recipe calls for 4 parts mayo and 3 parts sour cream in an effort to lighten it up. But I have never been all that happy with the sour cream.

    Last week it came to me at about 0400 one morning, that crème fraîche (a thick cultured cream) might make a lighter, cleaner tasting base for rémoulade than even the mayo/sour cream combo. Crème fraîche has 110 calories an ounce with 90% fat -- high but lower than mayo. So I made it last night for a soft shell crab dinner for three. In the making, I found that the crème fraîche holds up a well as mayo and far better than sour cream when fussed with.

    My guests and I really liked it. Nice texture, lighter taste, not at all cloying--almost bright. Half the calories.

    So here we have rémoulade with crème fraîche!

    Rémoulade Sauce with Crème Fraîche

    See abbreviations if needed 
    Yield:  4 servings 

    •   1C     crème fraîche
    •   2T     Dijon mustard
    •   2T     capers, drained
    •   2        cornichon (or small gherkins) pickles, very finely diced
    •   2T      fresh parsley, chopped
    •   1T      fresh tarragon, chopped
    •   1.5t     anchovy paste
    •   pepper   TT 
    •   No salt  (anchovy paste and capers are loaded with it)
    •   juice       of 1/2 small lemon, not too much, taste then add

    1.  Mix all together, cover and refrigerate 
    2.  Serve at room temperature as a side for crab cakes, soft shell crabs or shrimp 



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