Thursday, April 26, 2012

Broiled Crab Cakes

I’ve never broiled crab cakes before; I’ve always sautéed them.   So I was excited to give this recipe a try and compare the two.    I found this recipe on Gojee when I entered crab as an ingredient and the beautiful photo lured me in.

Original Recipe:

Broiled Crab Cakes
1 lb fresh (not canned) crabmeat
10 saltine crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons finely minced peppedew or pimiento peppers
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
¼ tsp Old Bay seasoning
2 tsp very soft butter

Place all of the ingredients, except the butter, in a large bowl. With a fork, very gently toss the ingredients together until just blended being careful to avoid breaking up the crabmeat too much.

Gently form into 6 slightly rounded cakes and place on a non-stick baking sheet (non-stick aluminum foil works great here). This can be done up to a day in advance and refrigerated, covered, until ready to cook.

Preheat broiler on its lowest setting. Gently spread softened butter on each cake and broil until golden brown and hot throughout. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before carefully removing the cakes from the baking sheet with a spatula.

Serve two of these crab cakes as a main course per person or smaller ones as an appetizer.

Note: The recipe is from Las Vegas Food Adventures Blog, you can check it out here:

My Version:

I did not use “fresh” crabmeat.  I bought some really good lump crabmeat at Costco for $20.

I did not use saltines, instead I used pretzels (that I crushed by foot).  

I did not use the fresh Italian parsley or minced peppedew or pimiento peppers.  Instead I used shallots, garlic, and celery.  

Can you believe this is the first time I have every purchased or used Old Bay seasoning?

I debated using an egg, but decided to try to follow some of the recipe.   I might try it next time just so I can compare.   But it held together pretty well without an egg.

Lump Crab Meat - I love the big chunks!
A little pat f butter.  I think this really helped make the top brown and crispy.

I thought they were very good.   They seemed less greasy from broiling vs. sautéing in oil.   I would definitely use the broiler and a dab of butter again.  As for ingredients, I think that is something fun to play with and you can always use whatever you have on hand (which is what I did in this case).   You can add so many creative things to crab cakes.   For example:  cilantro, jalapenos, cucumber, red onion, white onion, corn, etc…. 

Wine Pairing: I love sparkling wine with crab and suggest a Blanc de Blancs or a crisp white wine. 

Get saucy!  I usually make an aioli to go with the crab cakes as a sauce.  My two favorites are lemon garlic aoili and Sriracha aioli.    As much as I would love to have the time to make fresh mayo for the aioli, I just don’t have that kind of time.  As far as my favorite mayo, I use Hellman’s Light.    

Lemon Garlic Aioli:  Combine: ½ cup mayo, 1 ½ Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic, a dash of salt, some white pepper, and maybe a dash of cayenne.   You can play with the proportions to taste.    

Sriracha Aioli:  Combine: ½ cup mayo, 1 Tablespoon Sriracha, a dash of salt, and some white pepper.   You can play with the proportions to taste (i.e. if you like it spicy add more Sriracha, or if it is too busy add more mayo).    


I’m curious…… What is your favorite crab cake recipe or ingredient?   And do you usually broil or sauté your crab cakes?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Easter Dinner: Fettuccine Carbonara with fresh, homemade pasta

Yes, I know Easter was a couple weeks ago.  And, yes I know that I am behind.   Sorry about that.  Things have been hectic and I’m not even going to get into it.  But I’m back and plan to make up for lost time.  Starting NOW!

So, as far as Easter goes, I need to start by admitting that I am not a ham fan.   What?  Yep, you heard me right.   I am not a fan of the ham.    I actually dread the Easter ham dinner.    Strangely, I don’t mind ham in omelets or these really good and warm ham & Swiss sandwiches that my Grandma makes with a yummy poppy-seed dressing.  But sliced ham?  No can do.

My favorite thing to make for Easter is a traditional Pasta Carbonara.   This is an Italian dish that is traditionally made with spaghetti, but I prefer it with homemade fettuccine instead.  AND it has pancetta, which is kind of close to ham, right?   Same pork family anyway.  (PANCETTA is basically Italian bacon.  It is pork belly meat that is salt cured, seasoned with such spices as nutmeg, fennel, perppercorns, dried ground hot peppers and garlic, then dried for at least three months.  You can find it in the deli section of most grocery stores; just get it cut into ½ thick slices and dice it at home OR Trader Joe’s sells it pre-diced.)

A little history from Wikipedia:   Pasta alla carbonara (usually spaghetti, but also fettuccine, rigatoni, or bucatini), is an Italian pasta dish based on eggs, cheese (pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano), bacon (guanciale or pancetta), and black pepper. The dish was created in the middle of the 20th century. Cream is not common in Italian recipes, but is often used elsewhere. Other variations on carbonara outside Italy may include peas, broccoli, mushrooms, or other vegetables. Many of these preparations have more sauce than the Italian versions. Like most recipes, the origins of the dish are obscure, and there are several stories about it. As the name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner), some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. The etymology gave rise to the term "coal miner's spaghetti", which is used to refer to spaghetti alla carbonara in parts of the United States. It has even been suggested that it was created by, or as a tribute to, the Carbonari ("charcoalmen"), a secret society prominent in the unification of Italy. It seems more likely that it is an urban dish from Rome.

Carbonara was included in Elizabeth David's Italian Food, an English-language cookbook published in Great Britain in 1954. It was first described after the war as a Roman dish, when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States.

This is a really quick and simple pasta to make and I think it is delicious.   Now, it isn’t quite as quick and simple if you make homemade pasta, but the homemade pasta is worth it and really makes the dish taste divine.   This year I decided to add peas for a splash of color (and to feel like I’m having a healthy vegetable in the mix).

Fettuccine Carbonara Recipe

  • 1 pound fresh fettuccine (store bought or homemade; for homemade pasta see recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 cups cubed pancetta (can use bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bag of fresh English Peas (steam to cook; store bought frozen peas are okay too)

Sautéing the cubed pancetta with olive oil
  1. In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, cook the pancetta (or bacon) until crispy, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for 30-60 seconds. FYI - I do not drain the pancetta fat onto paper towels and instead prefer to use it as part of the sauce.  (I did not say this was a healthy Easter dinner but I did add peas so I hope that counts for something?)  Add the cooked peas and set aside (heat off).  
  2. In medium bowl beat together eggs. Stir in cheese and a couple twists of fresh ground pepper and set aside. (I don’t normally add salt because the pancetta is pretty salty itself.)
  3. For fresh, homemade paste, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 1-2 minutes (it will float to the top when it is done).  If store bought pasta, cook pasta according to package directions.
  4. When the pasta is done drain it and add it to the pan with the pancetta, garlic and peas (this mix should still be hot as this whole process goes really fast.  If it has cooled off reheat it before adding the pasta (make sure to turn the heat off before adding the eggs to avoid scrambled eggs).
  5. Toss with butter until it is melted.
  6. Add egg and cheese mixture stir gently while the hot pasta cooks the eggs creates a silky sauce.
  7. Mound into serving bowls and garnish with freshly grated parmesan.

Wine Pairing Suggestion:  I recommend a Chardonnay.   We had the Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay 2005 for our Easter dinner and I thought it paired really well with the Carbonara.   It had some citrus that helped lighted up the overall richness of the dish, and an undercurrent of butter that went really well with the pasta.

Fresh Pasta Recipe

  • Pasta Machine (not completely mandatory but very helpful to get the pasta thin enough; in Italy the women roll it out by hand and then cut it with a knife so that could be an option for you if you are looking for an intense workout – it is hard to get the dough rolled very thin.) 
  • Kitchen-aid Mixer (this is in case your hands start to hurt when working with the dough and you decide to toss it into the mixer with the dough hook – I have done this many times).

  • 1 2/3 cups flour (keep it out just in case you need more)
  • 2 medium or large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • A pinch of sea salt

1. Mound the flour onto a clean work surface and make a well in the center with your fist.

2. Break the eggs into the well and add the oil and a pinch of salt.

Flour Mound with Eggs
My Favorite Kitchen helper, my sister Casey

3. Gradually mix the eggs into the flour using your fingers, bringing the ingredients together from the outside in.  Don’t worry if it is a mess, it will come together when it is all mixed together.   FYI - If the dough feels too dry, add a few drops of water; if it’s too wet or sticky, add a little more flour. (Once you’ve made it a few times, will become familiar with how the dough should feel.)
Bring the flour into the eggs, always pulling to the center.

4. Knead the dough with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands until a somewhat smooth mass is formed, about 2 to 5 minutes.  

5. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up any left over dry bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust your board with flour when necessary.  Yes it is a lot of kneading – but do not skip the kneading or resting portion of this recipe, they are essential for a light pasta.  FYI – This is where I have been known to get out my stand mixer to take over and save my achy hands.

6.  Once you get it into a smooth ball (I was once told it should feel smooth as a baby’s butt), lightly massage it with a hint of olive oil, and pop the dough into a plastic food bag or cover with plastic wrap.

7. Allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. The pasta will be much more elastic after resting.

5. For the pasta machine, I break the big pasta ball into about 4 chunks.  Start to feed a chunk of the pasta dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine. As the sheet of dough comes out of the machine, fold it into thirds and then feed it through the rollers again, still on the widest setting. Pass the dough through this setting a total of 2 or 3 times to knead the dough a little extra (this will help ensure the resulting pasta is silky smooth).
Adding a "chunk" of pasta dough to the pasta machine.

6. Pass the pasta through the machine again, starting at the widest setting and gradually reducing the settings, one pass at a time, until you’ve gotten to the thinnest setting (make sure you go all the way through the settings; while the pasta will seem “thin enough” remember that it plumps up when cooking and I have had some very thick raviolis because I got lazy). 

7. One you have the dough, then find the fettuccine attachment and pass it through that to cut the pasta into the desired size.   Dust the pasta with a little flour and place it on clean kitchen towels and let it rest.  It doesn’t really need to rest but it can rest for up to an hour while you prepare everything else.  I also cover it with a kitchen towel so that it doesn’t dry out.   
Fresh Fettuccine

8. Add to salted boiling water for a minute or two (it will start to float).  Make sure to taste it and be careful not to over cook it.  It doesn’t take long.   

Enjoy!  It is a bit of work, and it is more fun with a helper, but there is nothing better than fresh pasta.

Now, I'm curious..... What is your favorite Easter dinner?


Monday, April 16, 2012

Food Porn Class #4

Sadly, I had my last class yesterday in my series of Food Porn classes.   I really enjoyed the four classes and am sad that they are over.  (For now anyway; I guess they are going to be adding some new ones this summer.)   The classes were fun, filling, and informative.  I met some great people in the class and hope to see them again in another class this summer.  I love the Kitchen in the Market space and Amber Procaccini did a good job of helping us think about composition and trying different angles.

I also bought a new camera before the class and had fun playing with that.   I had been using my Cannon Powershot that was ready to be replaced and my Nikon D70 that I got in 2004 and still haven’t learned how to use it effectively.  I always got hung up in the menu and when numbers came into play (ISO, f-stop, appeture, etc…) my brain just had some kind of mental block.  That and the thing is heavy and bulky.   So, I decided to cut my losses with that camera and find a good camera that takes amazing photos but that is lighter and smaller.  I wanted the best of both worlds.   After a week of research, I decided on the Sony NEX-5N.    
I had narrowed it down to that and the Nikon J1.   The Sony got great reviews, I liked the way it felt in my hand, you can change out the lenses and the flash, and I loved the menu – it is so easy to use and play with!    And play I will.    I couldn’t wait to get to class to test it out.   

Here are the results………  (FYI – I am just posting these unedited – no photoshop, no cropping, no nothing; just pure photos from my new camera.)

Kitchen in the Market offers commercial kitchen space that you can rent.   This guy whipped up a bagel grill cheese that looked amazing.   Gooey and cheesy!   I didn't ask for a bite but I wanted to.

Rosemary Polenta

Shortbread Dough

·         Black Tea Spiced Pork Tenderloin

Polenta with Cranberry chutney

Shortbread cookies
Midtown Global Market (where Kitchen in the Market is located).  How cool is this photo?   This panorama feature is also one of the things that sold me on this new camera.   So fun.  

I love my new camera and had a blast breaking it in in class!   I left class a little buzzed and a lot full - the perfect Sunday afternoon.  Cheers!