pretty crabby…

This weekend was a rare treat for me—I did absolutely nothing. I had no professional nor personal commitments that required my time or attendance. None.

Since days like these occur like the proverbial “once in a blue moon,” I relished every moment. I slept in (to me, that meant until 8am) and had a very relaxing, stressed-free couple of days.

I whittled down my growing stack of unread magazines and caught up with a slew of unwatched TiVo’d programs. A large pile of laundry finally made its way to the wash and eventually in my closet, neatly folded. The murky fish tank was scrubbed clean and the filter replaced, much to the relief and delight of my aquatic pets.

Oh, yeah—I did some cooking.

A good friend of mine, Matt, had given me a boatload of local Dungeness crabs. Well, literally not that much—six to be exact. Friday afternoon I went over his home to pick up my loot.  These tasty crustaceans were caught just off his home on Puget Sound. His family are unique, in a sense, that none of them eat any of the crabs they harvest. Lisa, his wife, and their two children are allergic to shellfish, while he himself doesn’t even touch the stuff. Fortunately for me, I can fully enjoy them without any physical side effects.

With all these crabs available for my dining pleasure, I made a conscious effort to stretch out my bounty throughout the weekend. So I made a list of menu items that will prominently feature the crab.

One of my favorite dishes to prepare is crab cakes. Although readily available at many restaurants and markets, I prefer to make mine at home. A common problem with buying commercially-made cakes are you never really know what you are getting. Most are liberal with using extenders such as bread crumbs or vegetables that you hardly taste the crab meat. Some pan-fry them with too much oil that they end up being greasy and heavy.

My crab cakes use a 1:2 ratio of crab meat to bread crumbs. For the bread crumbs, I make my own and freeze them for later use. When picking the meat from the shell, I like to keep them intact as much as possible. I handle them with extreme care when folding in the rest of the ingredients. By keeping them lumpy, you get to taste the full sweetness of the crab meat.

I do prefer them a little crispy on the outside so I use panko for coating. This Japanese-style bread crumbs are coarser than the common variety and give fried foods that crunchy texture. The cakes are shaped loosely and are put in the freezer until they firm up. They’re then pan fried on a lightly-oiled griddle until golden brown.

For the sauce I made a garlic and basil remoulade, and a hot chili aioli for a serious kick.  A squeeze of fresh lemon (in this case, a Meyer lemon) wakes up the crab cakes. To complete the meal, I served it with a salad of field greens.

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Dungeness Crab Cakes with Garlic-Basil Remoulade and Hot Chili Aioli

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