Fresh & Light Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Tarter Sauce

Nothing is better than fresh shellfish…except when it’s free. When I say fresh, I mean the shellfish was still moving before I cooked it. When I say free, I mean I paid $2.50 for the subway ride from Matt’s studio, where I received it, to my kitchen. That’s right, another post about getting free ingredients from the chef series the photographer I work for is shooting…

This week, we had an amazing shoot with Sam Talbot, the Executive Chef at Surf Lodge (and a final contestant on Top Chef!). Not only is he an excellent chef, very down to earth, and dangerously handsome…he also is extremely generous. Post shoot, he left me with three extremely large Dungeness crabs to cook up for CheeverSauce.

I have to admit, I had my reservations - I never cooked a live crab before. Boiling them seemed easy enough, but for how long? Did I have a pot big enough? Would it scream like a lobster? Would I be found on my kitchen floor afterward…pinched to death? I was used to someone handing me crabs already cooked to a bright red perfection and I had never participated in actually taking the life away from something I was about to eat. Especially when it was sort of cute and looked like this:

(meet Moe, Larry, and Curly. So silly)

I decided it was time to behave like a serious chef and boil the damn crabs. And what better dish to whip up then an ultimate personal favorite -crab cakes. 

During the cooking process, I just had to keep repeating Chef Talbot’s words, “crabs don’t have feelings,” over and over in my head. This was especially difficult when one tried to climb out (!) while half its body was being boiled alive. Thankfully, the rubber bands around its large pinchers made it impossible and this only lasted a second. 

This crab cake recipe is my own combination of several recipes I found online. One suggested serving it with a jalapeño tarter sauce, which couldn’t sounds more delicious - I love a subtle spicy kick of flavor to any meal. The dish was surprisingly easy to make, and not expensive, as a lot of the same ingredients that went into the crab mixture also was included in the sauce. I wanted the main focus of the crab cake to be the crab meat, so I included lighter ingredients and avoided frying it in a lot of oil. Nothing is worse than eating a crab cake with too much filling and too much grease.

This was hands down one of the most delicious meals I have ever made (Is anyone counting on how many times I’ve said this so far?).  The freshness of the crab was so apparent, and the light, fluffy texture of the cakes was complimented perfectly by the zing and sweetness of the jalapeño tarter sauce. I can’t wait to make this dish again…even if I decide to go the quicker route and buy crabmeat vs. cooking up my Crustacean Three Stooges. 

Onto the recipe!

I can’t recommend enough purchasing live crabs for this dish. The fresh flavor was worth the hassle of boiling, cleaning, and cracking them. I have to admit, the process as a whole was kind of fun and a great learning experience. Here’s a great how-to: http://santarosa.about.com/od/foodandwine/a/crab.htm . I didn’t follow this, I sort of just cracked and clawed (wink, wink) my way through getting the meat out, but this sounds like less of a mess. 

Recipe for the crab cakes:

I made this mixture in a separate bowl and added the mixture to the crab vs. the other way around. This allowed me to control how much filling I added to my crabmeat, since I wanted its consistency to be mostly crab. 

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise, 1/2 cup of low fat sour cream, chopped scallions from 1 head of scallion, a large handful of chopped parsley, lemon juice from 1 lemon, lemon rind from the same lemon, two eggs, two handfuls of whole wheat panko crumbs, a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper. 
  2. Add your mixture into a bowl of your crabmeat a little at a time, mixing in between adding so you don’t add too much (I had mixture leftover). It looked like this:
  3. Let the mixture chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes. 
  4. In a large skillet, add about 3 tbs. of canola or sunflower oil (these are good for cooking at high heat which is what you need for these) over medium/high heat. 
  5. Once your oil is slightly smoking, spoon out your crab mixture and flatten/shape into a 3/4 inch patty. 
  6. Add crab cakes to your pan, cook for 4 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Carefully flip cakes and repeat until the crab cakes are throughly heated. 
Recipe for the sauce:
  1. Combine 1/3 cup light mayonaise, 1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream, 2 spoonfuls of relish, lime rind from 1 lime, 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced, and a pinch of salt. 
  2. Serve along side your crab cakes and enjoy!

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