|Crab cakes ready to enjoy.|
And that’s where the problem comes in with crab. It is a very mild-tasting meat, delightful, yes, but forceful, certainly not. When this crustacean is used in a dish, you have to be exceptionally careful not to let the other ingredients overwhelm it.
The family kept the estate’s factor’s house just down the road from Benmore, and this is where David lived until his death a year ago.
|Eckford House, Argyll, Scotland|
He also loved music, especially Mozart, and absolutely the operas of the Austrian wunderkind. So for one of our last visits with him, we decided to have a special opera night with a video of Don Giovanni, a special supper between acts and desserts afterward. We dubbed it “Glyndebourne Comes to Eckford”. David invited a good friend, we all got dressed up – and even the weather cooperated!
|All the ingredients, ready to mix.|
Trouble was, I didn’t have a recipe for crab cakes in my head, and we had none of our cookbooks with us.
David had a small shelf of cookbooks. Among them I found one that had recipes from New England. Good place to start. And shazam! There was a crab cake recipe. Trouble was, it didn’t look very inspiring – but it might provide a good jumping off point.
|This is the texture you want.|
I should have made notes, though, because by the time we returned home, I had little to no idea what I’d done.
About four years ago now, I again got the big eyes and a request for crab cakes, and the time was right to recreate what I’d done, improve on it if I could, and come up with a master recipe for The Blechta Crab Cake.
|Ready to be served!|
And today, I’m going to share it with you. In all humbleness, I think it’s probably the best thing I make, and everyone for whom we’ve served these crab cakes say they’re the best they’ve ever eaten. The bread crumbs on the outside give the cakes a wonderful crispiness and the flavors all work together to highlight the delicate flavor of the crab meat. I don’t know if I believe them, but it’s nice to get that kind of accolade now and then
These are best made and cooked fresh, but you can freeze them or keep them in the fridge to cook another day, just as long as they’re served right out of the frying pan! They’re excellent with a Reisling, a Gewürztraminer – or especially champagne.
And please think of our friend David if you make them.
The Blechta Crab Cake
8 oz crab meat
¾ cup fresh white bread crumbs (Do not use dry bread crumbs. You’ll be really sorry.)
2 Tbs shallots, minced
¼ tsp Cayenne pepper
¾ tsp fresh tarragon
½ tsp Spanish paprika
¼ tsp salt
a good grinding of white pepper
¼ cup chives, chopped finely
¼ cup red bell pepper, minced
1 Tbs freshly grated lemon rind
4 Tbs mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1 egg, beaten
more bread crumbs for coating
2-4 Tbs olive oil (the good stuff)
1. Pick through crab meat carefully for pieces of cartilage. Pull apart any large pieces of meat. You don’t want the meat shredded to infinity, but you don’t want huge chunks, either.
2. Using a fork, lightly mix together thoroughly all ingredients except for the olive oil and extra bread crumbs. Refrigerate tightly covered for 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. If it seems a little wet after this time, add a slight bit more breadcrumbs.
3. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400°. Divide crab mixture into 8 or 12 portions and form into ¾" thick patties. Coat with the extra bread crumbs just before cooking. Only use a small amount of pressure to get them to stick.
4. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, bake the crab cakes for 10 minutes in the center of the oven. This will allow the middle of them to set.
5. Using a skillet, finish the crab cakes in some good quality olive oil (we prefer the “spicier” kind you get when green olives are pressed) over medium-low heat until they’re golden brown on both sides. Remove to heated plates and keep them warm in the cooling-down oven while you finish browning the other cakes, but they’re best sent to the table immediately when the bread crumb crust is really crispy.
6. Serve with lemon wedges (a few drops pulls all the flavors together). Lately, we’ve been serving this with aioli sauce and it’s really marvelous. A salad of baby greens makes a nice accompaniment.
Note: We buy crab meat from our favorite fish monger at the St. Lawrence Market, and it comes in one-pound tubs. I generally make a double recipe, stopping at the point where I would slip the cakes into the oven. Simply put your baking sheet in the freezer for a few hours, take out the cakes and wrap them tightly in plastic. They’ll keep in the cold for a few months – but I’ll bet they don’t last that long!