Southwest -style Crab Cakes with avocado crema
Last week I spent several hours working on a different recipe for this column, but for reasons yet known, I couldn’t get it quite right. On Saturday evening I was making crab cakes for my book group, and decided to poll my small cadre of Instagram followers as to which recipe they’d prefer. To my surprise and delight the crab cakes took a decisive victory. In my experience crab cakes can be absolutely decadent, or they can be completely terrible. Of course I like to think mine are the former. The trick to making good crab cakes is to stop thinking of them as cakes. They’re more like crab patties, dredged in bread crumps at the last minute, and pan fried in olive oil just long enough to set the egg batter and impart a golden crisp. The crab will still be juicy and flavorful, with a little bite from the chipotle and jalapeño. I love to finish this recipe with a little avocado crema, which is so smooth and the citrus really brightens the flavor. It’s the perfect compliment the to crispy “cakes”. These crab cakes are best served hot and fresh. You can keep them warm in a 250 degree oven if you’re making a large batch, but don’t wait too long before eating them. If you prefer a bit more spice, add a drop or two of hot sauce right before serving.
Southwest Style Crab Cakes- Serves 4 for dinner, (2 cakes each)
12oz lump crab meat; claw or special will also be ok, but I think the lump meat provides the best texture.
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 large teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño
1 tablespoon cilantro, roughly sliced into smaller pieces
¼ teaspoon chipotle powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, plus 1 cup placed aside for dredging the crab “patties” just before frying.
¼ cup olive oil, for frying
¼ cup sour cream or yogurt
juice of ½ lime
salt to taste
Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Move the crema to a small bowl. Cover and chill until ready to use.
In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients except for the crab and breadcrumbs. Use a whisk to make sure everything is thoroughly combined. Next, add the crab and breadcrumbs. I like to put the crab in the middle of the bowl, and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the crab. Then, using your hands, gently toss the crab in the batter until well coated. The texture of the mixture is important in this recipe. You want a somewhat loose consistency. We are not making a tuna salad here, so take care not break up the lumps of meat too much. The nice chunks of crab provide so much flavor and texture.
Place the reserved breadcrumbs in a bowl next to the crab mixture.
Once the crab and batter are thoroughly combined form the patties by pressing about 1/3 cup of the mixture in the palm of your hand. The patty may seem a bit flimsy, and you will have to be gentle with this part. With the patty resting in one hand, use the other to generously sprinkle the breadcrumbs on one side. Flip the patty to the other and do the same.
Heat olive oil for frying over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the crab cakes and fry for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until the crust is lightly browned. Drain on paper towels; serve hot w/ a generous dollop of avocado cream, and cilantro for garnish.