Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chard Stalk Crab Cakes

chard stalk crab cakes ready to go into the pan
In the Gulf region of the US, picked fresh crab meat is oh so readily available, and I love it. It beats picking fresh cooked crabs yourself. But if you have to: cook your crabs, let them cool, crush the shells and start picking out all the meat without damaging your fingers on the sharp shells, and definitely don't add any shell particles to the meat.

Don't get me wrong, I love to pick and eat crab. But at the table, in company. There is nothing even remotely fun about picking crabs all by your lonesome at the kitchen counter.

So, ready-picked fresh crab meat for me, if I can find it. When I make crab cakes, I always vary with what goes in, spice-wise. I think most people who make crab cakes do. When I had a beautiful bunch of Swiss chard in my hands, I decided to use some of the stalks - finely diced - as flavor and texture ingredient in the crab cakes. Chard stalks have a natural savory crunch. I loved the result: the chard stalks gave a crispy freshness, as well as a touch of vibrant red.

Chard Stalk Crab Cakes
makes 4 burger-size crab cakes

1 cup picked fresh crab meat
1 medium egg, whisked
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3-4 drops tabasco sauce (or to taste)
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup breadcrumbs (I use my own, from leftover baguette or ciabatta)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste - the mustard and mayonnaise already contain salt)

This is the basic mix. From here on, I vary with what I add in flavors, herbs, and spices. Sometimes cornichons and capers, other times I add grated parmesan and use fresh chives instead of parsley. For instance. For these Chard Stalk Crab Cakes, I added:

1 tbsp finely chopped spiced beans (I used my homemade spiced beans)
1/2 cup finely diced chard stalks

for pan-frying
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs unsalted butter

  • Mix mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, tabasco, and worcestershire sauce together. 
  • add the chard stalks, spiced beans, and parsley
  • Taste the mixture, and add salt accordingly. 
  • Mix in the whisked egg. 
  • Spoon in the crab meat carefully, and add the breadcrumbs, half of the amount first. Check for thickness of the mixture, and add more if needed. What you are looking for, is the a texture similar to a coarse mince meat, and easy to shape into patties without falling apart. 
  • Leave to infuse all the flavors for an hour or so, then shape into patties.
Heat olive oil and butter gently until the butter is slightly foaming. Pan-fry the crab cakes carefully on one side for 3-4 minutes (over medium heat), turn over, and pan-fry for another 3-4 minutes (still over medium heat).

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