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Crab cravings


Crab cravingsChef reveals secrets
By MARIAN BETANCOURT , The Associated Press
August 2, 2006
NEW YORK - Years before he ever imagined he would own restaurants and write cookbooks, Tom Douglas sometimes went crabbing with his dad in the Chesapeake Bay.
''You put a chicken neck on a string and hang it from a pole over the bridge to catch blue crabs,'' Douglas said. He comes from a large Delaware family - he's the fourth of eight children - and prime fresh local crabmeat was too expensive to buy for home use. ''That was a going-out treat,'' he said.
Even as a youngster, perhaps because of that early experience, Douglas' appreciation of food (and crab cakes) was keen. It led to his first job as a $1.18-an-hour cook's helper at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Del.
''My job was to open oysters and clams. I opened 400 oysters a day,'' he recalled in a phone interview from Seattle.
The chef there taught him important lessons he still follows for making crab cakes. ''He said the No. 1 rule was being gentle. No stirring, only folding. The more you work them, the tougher they get,'' he said.
Douglas established his own cooking career in Seattle, where he happily discovered the Pacific Ocean offered up Dungeness crabs that were fabulously tasty, too.
Now, at 47, more than 25 years, four restaurants, a radio show, a catering business and three cookbooks later, the James Beard award-winning chef is teaching some of his secrets in ''I Love Crab Cakes!'' subtitled ''50 Recipes for an American Classic'' (William Morrow, 2006, $19.95).
His book celebrates their infinite variety. Along with his own recipes in ''I Love Crab Cakes,'' there are some from other chefs, including Emeril Lagasse and Jacques Pepin, as well as from his mother, Mary Douglas, to whom the book is dedicated.
At the front of the book, Douglas gives the basics for making good crab cakes, whether with East or West Coast crabs; at the back are ideas for sauces and accompaniments.
Here are recipes for two classics and one new take on crab cakes, from Douglas' book.
The traditional crabmeat for these Chesapeake Bay Classic Crab Cakes is East Coast blue crab. The recipe instead, works with Dungeness crabs, Douglas said, although you will probably need to squeeze out the excess liquid. ''If your Dungie tastes salty, you may want to omit the salt in the recipe because there's already salt in the Old Bay Seasoning.''
Traditionally, these cakes are served with tartar sauce, but Douglas prefers the tangy zip of green or red cocktail sauce to offset their creaminess.

Five tips for tasty crab cakes
No. 1. Which crabs to use? For all of the recipes, blue crab, Phillips brand pasteurized crab and Dungeness crab are interchangeable.
No. 2. ''Always buy the best crab meat. Forget about the term blue crab; today blue crab is a crab from Indonesia, so it's not the same thing as what comes from the Chesapeake. If you can't get fresh crab, try the pasteurized crab usually sold in the refrigerated case of your supermarket or fish store.''
No. 3. ''I'm tired of hearing people say they need to wait till the bread gets stale to make bread crumbs. You don't need stale bread with $25-a-pound crab meat. Use fresh crumbs.''
No. 4. Another mistake is to serve tartar sauce with a crab cake that has a mayonnaise binder.
No. 5. ''Don't overcook. Use a meat thermometer.'' He says 150 F to 155 F is the right temperature for doneness. If you overcook a mayonnaise-based crab cake, ''the mayonnaise gets greasy, and the cake gets pasty.''
Chesapeake Bay Classic Crab Cakes
1 large egg yolk (see note).
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest.
11/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice.
11/2 teaspoons cider vinegar.
1/2 cup peanut or canola oil.
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
1 tablespoon minced scallions, both white and green parts.
1 pound lump blue crabmeat drained and picked clean of shell.
4 cups fresh bread crumbs.
1/4 cup chopped parsley.
About 4 tablespoons unsalted butter.
Red cocktail sauce.
4 lemon wedges.
Put the egg yolk, Old Bay, mustard, lemon zest and juice, and vinegar in the bowl of a mini-food processor or a blender and process until smooth.
Gradually pour in the oil with the machine running until the mixture emulsifies and forms a mayonnaise. Season with the salt and pepper.
Transfer the mayo to a bowl and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the scallions and the crabmeat until well combined.
Combine the bread crumbs and the parsley in a shallow container.
Form the crab mixture into 8 patties about 3 inches wide and 3/8 -inch-thick and drop them into the bread crumb-parsley mixture. Dredge the crab cakes on both sides. If you have time, leave the crab cakes in the container of bread crumbs, cover with plastic wrap and chill for an hour or more.
When you are ready to fry the crab cakes, put 2 large nonstick skillets over medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons butter to each pan. When the butter is melted, add 4 crab cakes to each pan, patting off excess crumbs first. Slowly fry the crab cakes until they are golden brown on both sides and hot through, turning once with a spatula, about 4 minutes per side. If the crab cakes are brown too quickly, reduce the heat. The internal temperature of a cooked crab should be 155 F on an instant-read thermometer.
Transfer crab cakes to plates, 2 per person, and serve with your choice of sauce and lemon wedges.
Note: To use this recipe for crab cakes that are broiled, but not breaded, use 2 egg yolks, make the crab cake mixture, and shape into 8 cakes. Omit dredging in bread crumbs. Refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours or overnight. Arrange the cakes in a pan and broil until they're hot through and lightly golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes, rotating the pan as needed to brown the cakes evenly.
Makes 8 large crab cakes (4 servings).
Note: In a note on egg safety, Douglas writes: ''Use very fresh Grade A or Grade AA eggs (check the expiration date on the label before buying) and always keep the egg refrigerated. It's important to be aware of the potential dangers of salmonella and other harmful bacteria that may occur in eggs and take precautions. Don't keep eggs at room temperature for more than an hour, and always wash your hands, work surface and equipment before and after using raw eggs. Use products that have been made with raw eggs within one day.''
These cakes, the most popular crab cake at Etta's restaurant, are soft and need at least an hour's chilling time before pan frying.
Etta's New Dungeness Crab Cakes
1 large egg yolk.
1 tablespoon cider vinegar.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.
1 tablespoon finely chopped red bell pepper.
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion.
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chopped parsley.
1 teaspoon Tabasco.
1/2 teaspoon paprika.
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme.
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
1/4 cup olive oil.
1/4 cup sour cream.
1 pound fresh Dungeness crabmeat, drained, picked clean of shell and lightly squeezed if wet.
4 cups fresh bread crumbs.
About 4 tablespoons unsalted butter.
Green cocktail sauce.
4 lemon wedges.
In a mini-food processor, combine the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, bell pepper, onion, the 2 teaspoons of parsley, Tabasco, paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. Pulse to finely mince the vegetables and combine all the ingredients.
With the motor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube until the mixture emulsifies and forms a thin mayo.
Transfer the mayo to a large bowl and stir in the sour cream, then use a rubber spatula to fold in the crabmeat. Gently form 8 patties, about 3 inches wide by 3/8 -inch thick.
Put the bread crumbs in a shallow container and mix in the 3 tablespoons parsley. Lightly dredge the patties on both sides in the bread crumbs. Cover the crab cakes with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or longer.
Put two large nonstick skillets over medium heat and add about 2 tablespoons butter to each pan. When the butter is melted, add 4 crab cakes to each pan. Gently fry the crab cakes until they are golden brown on both sides and hot through, turning once with a spatula, about 4 minutes per side. The internal temperature should be 155 F.
Transfer the crab cakes to plates, serving 2 to each person, accompanied by ramekins of green cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.
Makes 8 large crab cakes (4 servings).
Here's Tom Douglas' version of an old-fashioned Chinese-American classic, egg foo yung. Simply squeeze a wedge of lemon over the tops of these delicately flavored crab patties or get feisty with some chili paste or Tabasco sauce.
Crab Foo Yung
4 large eggs.
2 teaspoons soy sauce.
2 teaspoons mirin (sweet cooking rice wine).
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or to taste.
3/8 pound crabmeat, drained, picked clean of shell and lightly squeezed if wet.
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms, stems removed.
1 cup mung bean sprouts.
1/4 cup minced celery, preferably the tender inner stems and a few leaves.
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts.
About 6 tablespoons peanut or canola oil, as needed.
4 lemon wedges.
Tabasco or Chinese hot chili paste.
Whisk the eggs with the soy sauce, mirin and Tabasco in a large bowl until slightly foamy. Stir in the crabmeat, mushrooms, sprouts, celery and scallions.
Heat 2 large nonstick skillets over medium-high heat with about 3 tablespoons oil in each one. When the oil is hot, ladle as many patties as will fit into each pan (3 or 4) using a 4-ounce ladle or a 1/2 - cup measuring cup. Fry the patties until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 4 minutes total, turning the heat down as needed. Use a spatula to turn the patties from side to side a few times while they're cooking so they don't get too dark.
Remove the patties from the pan, and drain on paper towels. If all the patties don't fit in the pans at once, fry them in batches. Keep the finished patties warm in a 200 F oven while you wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more oil, and continue to fry the remaining patties. You should get about 8 patties.
Serve with lemon wedges and Tabasco or hot chili paste.
Makes 8 patties, 4 servings.