“The Wire”-Worthy Crab Cakes
January 7, 2008
In honor of the final season premiere of HBO’s “The Wire,” which is set in Baltimore, I decided to make crab cakes for dinner last night. I suppose this is where I could use my The-Kitchen-Sink-Soapbox to expound about how this is the most original, heartbreaking and haunting show on television. I could treat you, dear reader, like I have treated friends and family over the past couple years—hounding them incessantly until they finally, finally NetFlix Season One. (And then there are those, ahem: Emily and Suzy, who are still holding out.)
But since this is a cooking blog, not a television blog, I’ll tell you about the crab cakes instead. Basically, I’ve never been all that satisfied with crab cakes I’ve ordered in restaurants or made at home. But I do love the crab cakes at Minneapolis restaurant Oceanaire. Luckily, my parents took a cooking class where they learned the Oceanaire recipe and can now recreate the meaty wonders at home.
But while I adore the Oceanaire crab cakes, both at the restaurant and at my parents’ house, they’re a bit on the decadent side. And I was confident I could create a version that was a little less special occasion-y (read: contained less than a week’s worth of mayo).
The liberating thing about creating your own recipe is that you can draw on the things you love from other versions. For instance, I knew I couldn’t sacrifice the crab for filler; like the Oceanaire crab cakes, I wanted a meaty end result. Along the same lines, I like crab cakes that don’t fall prey to bulky, chewy breadcrumbs. So I traded traditional breadcrumbs for the crunchiness and nuttiness of whole wheat panko.
But you can also nix other elements of most recipes that don’t suit you. For instance, I think bell peppers, a staple of many crab cake recipes, tend to do too much show-stealing, detracting from the main event: the crab. So I omitted them all together and instead used an ample amount of green onions and chives. And I rarely cook with mayonnaise, so I swapped in Greek yogurt in its place. Similarly I like crab cakes with a kick, but hot sauce, I think, is often too harsh and acidic. I opted for the subtle heat of cayenne in this version.
To serve along the side of these crab cakes, I created two dipping sauces: whipped avocado and horseradish cream. The avocado sauce was the clear winner—offering just the right amount of cool creaminess and tang. The crab cakes were delicious and I’d like to say they stole the show on the evening. But , in truth, several beats into the theme song of The Wire, we were transfixed and the crab cakes were more of a side dish. So make these crab cakes, but maybe first, order yourself some back seasons of The Wire.
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2 tablespoons 2% Greek yogurt (such as Fage)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 egg white
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
dash worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1/2 pound lump crab meat, picked over
1 cup whole wheat panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 tablespoons green onions, minced
1 tablespoon chives, minced
2 to 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
In a large bowl, whisk the first eight ingredients (yogurt through pepper) together. Gently fold in the crab, panko, onions and chives. Divide the mixture into four even parts and mold each part into a cake. Refrigerate the cakes (covered with plastic wrap) for at least 30 minutes, which will help the cakes firm up and hold together better in the skillet.
Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is heated, gently add two crab cakes and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until lightly browned and heated through. Remove the first two cakes to a plate; keep warm. If necessary, add another teaspoon of oil to the skillet and cook the remaining two cakes according to the directions above. Serve warm.
Whipped Avocado Dipping Sauce
1 avocado, skinned and pitted
juice of one lime
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Combine the ingredients in a large bowl and whip with a wire whisk (alternately, place the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse) until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Serve chilled.
Horseradish Cream Sauce
1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt (such as Fage)
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
pinch sea salt
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve chilled.