Tuesday, January 26, 2010

All The Great Things

I've been feeling guilty. This might just be a general condition of my Catholic upbringing, but I prefer to think it is because of some actual transgression on my part. In November, I wrote 16 blog posts, more than every other day. Since baby arrived though, it's been tough. Not only because it is hard to find time to write, but because it even harder to find time to cook something that is worth writing about. I've been dying to try my hand at bread again, there is a can of malt extract that is calling for me to brew more beer, I've got three new cookbooks that are worth my attention and all around me the foodie universe continues to go on without me.

And, as I mentioned recently, there have been plenty of culinary failures in my house. No sense giving you a recipe to something that tasted like crap so there are a few blog posts that could have been but weren't due to performance errors on my part.

That said, there is lots of cool stuff going on in the world, and even a couple of success stories in my own kitchen. For instance, my cyber-buddy Chuck sent me a kick-ass wing recipe. It seems as though everyone and their cousin are discovering Sriracha for the first time, which only confirms my belief that the obscure things that I embrace fully will all sooner or later become super popular (note also that I brought back the high-five, brought back beards, brought back saying "rad", popularized premium tequila around 2002, and made it O.K. to prefer small batch Bourbon over Single Malt Scotch, which, at least in the North-East, was a pretty big deal). Sriracha is just latest example. We used to only find it in Asian specialty stores and the occasional enlightened Whole Foods, now it's on sale at nearly every neighborhood supermarket. Sriracha has now reached the pinnacle of popularity since being featured in the January 2010 issue of Bon Appetit. Since then, Sriracha recipes are everywhere. It's nearly impossible to watch the Food Network for 15 minutes without hearing a mention of Sriracha. So, I decided to give these wings a try, resolved to share my own wing recipe at the next convenient time. In the meantime I'll give you a recipe for crab cakes that, yes, calls for a dollop of Sriracha, but more importantly, will introduce you to Sriracha's more rustic cousin, Chili-Garlic Sauce.

The wings came out great. I ended up using lime juice instead of lime zest, which I think ended up amping up the lime flavor a bit, and not in a bad way. The wings were more or less perfect, any gripe with them would be merely stylistic. Of course, Chuck promised that they wouldn't be very spicy and I do disagree on that count. I loved 'em, but they weren't really for people who don't like spicy food. Just a warning. Then again, almost nothing that I cook is for people who don't like spicy food. Those people should go to Mickey D's for dinner.

Beyond my kitchen, I wanted to alert you to someone who successfully made french bread at home, rather than, like yours truly, merely attempting the endeavor twice and failing both times. OK, perhaps I am being hard on myself. My bread was totally better than store bought. But it didn't look like this! That is what I believe in the journalism business is called being "scooped". Looks delicious though and I think we all have something to learn from Kissmyspatula (not the least of which is that if I ever go to Paris, I should rent an apartment, rather than stay in a hotel).

Last but not least before we get to the crab cakes: These people make sausage! I love them. The world is better place when more people make sausage. And people who cure sausage, there is a special place in heaven for you!

Ok. Crab Cakes. Now, I make traditional crab cakes with the Worcestershire sauce and a bit of mustard served with tartar sauce. And it's great. But I wanted to do something different here. I did a few experiments and I ended up a spicy but slightly sweet teriyaki crab cake. They are necessarily smaller than regular crab cakes, mostly because I crisped the outside by frying them in oil. Normal crab cakes are also fried, but not as hot and not in deep oil. Mine were done in a pan of hot peanut oil. I wanted to crispness to lighten it up bit, which I think it did, although they are only as light as crispy fried food can be. I also tried just broiling the cakes and that worked as well. I served them with a dollop of sour cream and a dot of Sriracha on each cake. The sour cream was a superior choice to mayonnaise since my aim was to make the cakes seem less dense and heavy, which is my usual complaint about good crab cakes. (My complaints about good crab cakes are, obviously, different.) Upon completion, they were fantastic, lighter than normal crab cakes, and had a really unique and interesting flavor. Definitely worth trying if you are tired to the same old usual mid-Atlantic take on crab.

There are a couple of pointers about crab cakes in general that are worth considering. The first is that you get what you pay for with crab (I find this to be true of most food, except at the farmer's market). Want crappy crab cakes? Buy crappy crab meat. Want excellent crab cakes? Buy excellent crab meat. End of story. Second, use too much bread and your cakes can be dry, but use too little and they are hard to cook and don't stay together. If the pan is consistently spitting hot oil towards your eye (yeah, that really hurt) then your cakes are too wet, add more crumbs. Third, here is a great opportunity to use day or two old french bread for breadcrumbs. You can sub with a canister of 7 month old breadcrumbs, but it's better with better ingredients.

Terriaki-Chili Crab Cakes

16 oz. Premium Crab Meat
2 Eggs
1 1/2 cups packed French Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup Chili-garlic Sauce
1/4 cup Teriyaki Sauce
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
2-4 Shallots, minced
2-4 cloves of Garlic, minced

For frying, 2 cups of peanut oil

In a large bowl, combine crab meat, eggs, chili-garlic sauce, teriyaki sauce, fish sauce, shallots, garlic, and mayonnaise. Mix well with a large fork or spoon. Next, mix in bread crumbs with your hands. Be sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the mixture, especially the bread crumbs and egg.

In a medium-sized cast iron skillet or another pan with high side walls, heat peanut oil to about 300 degrees. Pack the crab mixture into little egg shaped cakes. The cakes should also be approximately the size of an egg. Gently place each crab cake into the hot oil and cook for about 1 minute on each side. Cook the cakes in small batches so as not to cool down the oil too much.

When each cake is crisp from frying in oil, remove the crab cakes and place them on a foil covered baking sheet. Bake the cakes at 275 degrees for about 20 minutes if there is any concern that your crab cake is raw on the inside. This is generally only an issue if you oil is very hot but your crab cake is too large. The outside will be cooked but the inside will be raw.

Serve with sour cream and Sriracha. Alternatively, serve with sliced avocados and whole basil leaves. These make a great appetizer, or will serve 4 as a main course.

P.S. - I finally a logo for the site, I know its not perfect but it's a good start. Hopefully I'll get a chance to clean it up at some point in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Rowan's Creek, my current favorite small batch Bourbon!