We are fanatics about using the freshest of seasonal ingredients. Scarcely a weekend goes by when we do not hit a Farmers’ Market or two (if not the farm itself), and we frequent San Diego’s many ethnic markets at which excellent produce can be had for much less than the supermarket chains. We nearly never use processed, canned, or frozen foods.
But there are circumstances under which we do not hesitate to use canned or bottled ingredients. We have already mentioned the spectacular truffle pastes of Italy. In the winter months, good quality canned tomatoes are superior to the pricey plastic or cardboard offerings at most supermarkets. There’s at least one other instance: canned crab.
Most canned seafood products are like most canned products: awful. Perhaps the reason one brand of canned tuna is called “Chicken of the Sea” is because it’s flavor is indistringuishable from chicken. But Italian-style oil packed tuna is something else altogether. And the story is similar with crab. Most commercially canned crab is processed and preserved such that it lacks the supple flesh and burst of flavor of the fresh beast – except if you can find the fresh-canned, perishable type. This crab comes in a can, but must be kept cold to preserve it. We have recently found it at Costco where the quality is high and price much more afforable than the fresh stuff. Trader Joe’s has a similar product. We might add that the fresh canned stuff is a lot more user-friendly than the fresh beast that requires significant labor to free the swett meat from its hard and spiky shell. (Incidentally, Costco offers many pleasures for the San Diego foodie – an excellent wine selection, especially at the Morena Blvd. store, as well as excellent meats, especially lamb).
CURRIED CRAB AND CORN CAKES WITH ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE AND PARSLEY OIL
For the curried mayonaise:
- 2 eggs
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 ½ cups canola oil
- 3 tablespoons good-quality curry powder
For the roasted red pepper sauce:
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 cups apple juice
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 red bell peppers, roasted, skinned, and seeded
For the crab and corn cakes:
- 1 onion, finely diced
- ½ bulb fennel, finely diced
- 2 ears of corn (off the cob)
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 one-pound can of crab meat (fresh)
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
For the parsley oil:
- 1 bunch Italian parsley
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Dash of salt
- Balsamic glaze for garnish (optional)
- Fried carrot strips for Garnish (optional)
- Make the curried mayonaise. Separate the whites from the yolk from one egg, reserving the whites for the crab cakes. Place the yolk and the other egg in the bowl of a food processor, together with the juice of the lemon. Add the curry powder and process until combined. With the food processor running, add the oil in a slow and steady stream. Refrigerate until needed.
- Prepare the crab cakes. In a saute pan, saute the onions and fennel until they are translucent. Add the corn and curry powder and cook for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until cool. When the vegetables are cool, add the egg white, 1 ½ cups of the curried mayonaise, and the crab meat and mix to combine. Add the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Make the red pepper sauce. Combine the shallots, apple juice, and stock in a sauce pan and reduce by half over moderate heat. Place the red peppers in the bowl of a food processor with the cayenne pepper and puree. With the food processor running, add the reduced juice/stock mixture in a slow and steady stream. Transfer the red pepper sauce back to the sauce pan and keep warm over very low heat.
- Make the parsley oil. Blanche the parsley bunch in boiling water for 15 seconds. Shock in ice water and wring all water from the parsley. Place the parsley in the bowl of a food processor and add a dash of salt. With the processor running, add the oil in a slow and steady stream. Place the herb and oil mixture in a bowl and refrigerate until the rest of the dish is completed.
- Cook the crab cakes. Form the crab mixture into equally-sized half-inch thick cakes. Place the cakes on an oiled hotel (or broiler) pan and roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
- Plate the dish. Strain the parsley oil through a fine mesh sieve. Spoon some parsely oil at the center of a plate and arrange crab cakes around (or, if it is one large one, on top of) the pool of parsley oiol. Ladle a dollop of the red pepper sauce on each of the crab cakes and one at the center of the pool of parsley oil.