My mom and I cooked Easter dinner together this year for the family, veering away from the traditional Southern route of ham, deviled eggs, potato salad, green beans and yeast rolls. Don’t get me wrong, I love that menu. Who doesn’t? But we had gone to The Fresh Market (the Disneyworld of grocery stores that originated in Greensboro, NC) the previous day, loading up on fresh, beautiful produce—so we went with this menu: Barefoot Contessa Crab Cakes with homemade Tartar Sauce, Roasted Asparagus, Caprese Salad and Oatmeal Caramel Bars. This was seriously right up my alley. Fresh, flavorful ingredients with not much “done” to them.
The crab cakes require a lot of dicing (sorry, LG, I know it’s not your favorite thing to do), and lots of ingredients. But they are sooo good and worth the extra effort. Lucky for me, Mom was on crab cake duty, so I covered the tartar sauce, asparagus and Caprese salad (one of my very favorite dishes).
CRAB CAKES – makes 26 small crabcakes; 6-8 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup small diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 1/2 cups small diced celery (4 stalks)
1/2 cup small diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/2 cup small diced yellow bell pepper (1 small pepper)- omitted
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)- omitted; didn’t have it
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound lump crabmeat, drained and picked to remove shells
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten for frying
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
Place the 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons oil, onion, celery, red pepper, parsley, capers, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in a large saute pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
Cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, break the lump crabmeat into small pieces and toss with the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs.
Add the cooked mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Shape into bite-sized crab cakes. I used a spoon to produce more or less uniform crab cake patties for even cooking. Plus, because they are small, they require a briefer stay in the hot oil to cook through.
Heat the butter and olive oil for frying over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the crab cakes and fry for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until browned. Even though they are darkening, they are not burning. It’s essential to let them brown, otherwise you’ll end up with a crispy outside, but a battery, uncooked inside. Not good.
Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a 250° oven if necessary and serve hot with tartar sauce.
TARTAR SAUCE – with a caper twist
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
2 tablespoons small-diced pickles or cornichons
1 tablespoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon coarse-grained mustard
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Now for the roasted asparagus. This is the easiest possible method for preparing vegetables (and healthy because it does not deprive the vegetable of its nutrients). To prep the asparagus, hold the stalk between the thumb and index finger of both hands, and snap in half. This removes the tough, woody portion of the stalk, and you’re left with the tender green bit. You can then trim the ends even. Next, toss in olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Place on a baking sheet in a 400° oven, roasting until the stalks are just beginning to develop golden or brown tones. I served it with a slice of prosciutto.
Be still my heart. This is one of my favorite dishes. Select a variety of heirloom tomatoes (I like to mix and match the colors), fresh mozzarella di bufala, a fruity olive oil (I love the extra virgin olive oil from A Southern Season…they use it at The Weathervane, too) and a handful of fresh basil. And a good bit of salt and pepper. Layer everything up, and perfetto!
I love “farmer’s market meals.” What I mean by this is all of the ingredients are fresh, and they are either served uncooked or with only minimal cooking. Having sides dishes that are so simple also allows a little more time to put into the crab cakes. This was a splendid meal for welcoming in Spring and it’s good produce. It won’t be long before we’ll be feasting on the freshest watermelons, corn, zucchini, blueberries, strawberries and peaches from our local farmer’s markets.
LG, I know you’ve been busy! But get back on the foodstalking horse! This blog is just “foodstalker” without you :(