The sun has finally started to warm my winter bones and got me out in the yard building raised beds and preparing for the nice weather. After an afternoon pulling patio furniture out of the shed and prepping planters for an herb garden, nothing tastes better with a cold beer than summer foods.
For some, that might mean blazing up the grill. For others, a fresh salad hits the warm weather palate. When the weather gets really hot, I prefer to make a cold ceviche of poached shrimp, fresh white fish, onions and lime but the thermometer is not quite peaking for that kind of summer eating.
At this time of year, I start getting anxious for summer to be in full bloom. I think of baseball on the radio, the smell of fresh-cut grass and a hefty meal of fried seafood.
I might not be a native New Englander, but I have fully adopted an insatiable appetite for big baskets of steamers, fried clam bellies, lobster rolls and crispy crab cakes. It might not quite be time for sitting out on a picnic table squeezing lemon wedges over red and white checkered baskets of fried seafood but why not pretend it's August in April.
I saw a big can of lump crab meat at the store and thought I should make crab cakes. It’s crazy but in all my years of cooking professionally, I don’t think I ever made a crab cake.
I had some corn in my freezer that was leftover from last season so I decided to make a summer treat in spring.
Like most fried foods, the key is regulating the temperature of the oil. I am still learning how to negotiate the too hot or too cold nature of my electric stovetop so my initial batch of crab cakes got a little more color than I prefer. After my first couple of cakes came out too dark, I got the hang of it and was really satisfied with the extra crunch I got from the cornmeal crusting.
Here's to a summer in spring.
CORN CRAB CAKES WITH SPICY TARTAR SAUCE
Makes about 8 large cakes
Corn Crab Cakes
1 pound lump crab meat (pick through for small shell fragments)
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen (submerge in hot warm to defrost)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup panko bread crumbs
For the spicy tartar sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
Juice of lemon half
1/4 cup dill pickle, diced
1 tablespoon pickle juice
1 tablespoon chipotle/ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
In a large bowl, mix all the crab cake ingredients except the cornmeal. Form crab cakes into medium-sized balls and carefully flatten into 1-inch thick flat discs.
Heat frying oil (canola, vegetable, sunflower or avocado oil) in a medium-rimmed, cast-iron Dutch oven. Dredge in salted cornmeal and put cakes into frying oil. Be careful to lay them in gently so the oil doesn’t splash.
Fry for about 2-3 minutes per side. Regulate the heat so the cornmeal doesn’t burn but turns a dark, golden brown. Fry in batches so the pot is not overcrowded. Place finished crab cakes on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
While frying the cakes, mix all the tartar sauce ingredients in a bowl.
Serve the cakes on a salad or in buns for crab cake sandwiches.