Sunday, July 10, 2005


ecco espresso & a family treasure

first of all, devoted daily readers may think i've been remiss in not mentioning andrew's awesome ecco espresso with 2004 daterra super-premium brazil. you recall he sent some to me last week as a surprise gift.

well, i haven't said anything because i've been trying to keep this to myself! yup, i've gone thru 1/2 pound of this sweet, heavy coffee already. . .(mwah-hah-hah-ha).

i have it and you don't. well, unless you buy it -- which, frankly, you should -- highly recommended.

today was the fancy food portion of the nyc coffee meetup; i'll talk more about that tomorrow. remember, the second part of the event is the swanky cocktail party at juan valdez.

if i didn't see you there today, i hope to see ya tomorrow. . .go now and r.s.v.p.

mr. right wasn't feeling well, so i rushed home to start on dinner and make sure he was ok. tonite we are having an easy-to-make family treasure, my renowned "actual crab cakes."

they have no filler in 'em, which is why they are called "actual crab." 'cuz i think those bready discs with a few stringy crab bits suck, and shouldn't be called crab cakes at all, but rather "seafood croutons."

in a spirit of generosity, i hereby endow the planet with this treasured recipe. it takes only about 5 mins. to make, and must be made about 2 hrs. ahead of cooking, so they can chill.

plus, if you wanna make the dill aioli, that needs to be made 3 hrs. ahead so the flavors can blend.

dill aioli is luscious stuff; homemade mayonnaise is so much better than store-bought. actually, they really aren't in the same class at all.

i hope you have a food processor, a blender, an immersion blender, or a really really strong arm with a stiff whisk, because aioli requires vast amounts of beating in a very short time. . .i mean, intense.

dill aioli:

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon fresh black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 clove garlic, pressed
1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh dill fronds
1/4 c. grapeseed or canola oil
1 teaspoon champagne vinegar (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon boiling water
pinch saffron (optional)

place yolk, mustard, salt, pepper, and a little of the vinegar in a bowl, or your blender, processor, etc. whirl or whisk till fluffy.

the oil must be added really slowly at first in a teeny-tiny stream or else the mayonnaise won't come together. so while the yolk mixture is whirling, drizzle in the oil. if you are whisking it, you probably need someone to help with this step.

once about 1/2 the oil is drizzled in, you should have a nice, smooth emulsion that will coast the back of a spoon, at least. now add the garlic and the rest of the vinegar. whiz or beat more.

when you add the rest of the vinegar it should whiten and start to look like mayonnaise. but it will be thinner than store-bought.

keep drizzling in the remainder of the oil.

it will look like thick gravy. this is good; keep beating/whizzing.

if the mayonnaise breaks or won't come together, don't worry. you can take the broken mixture and drizzle it into a new egg yolk.

there is a second chance for redemption! now add dill; whizz/beat.

raw eggs + hot summer can be bad news. this is where the boiling water comes in.

if you like the saffron, take a tiny pinch and infuse it in the boiling water. then add this to the mayonnaise.

whiz/beat more. scrape into a clean bowl and refrigerate immediately. i mean, immediately. did i say, immediately?

chill for at least 3 hours before serving. but don't try to keep for more than 24 hrs.; just don't, ok?

with an electric whirling device, the aioli takes 2 mins. to come together total. honest; it takes more time to measure the ingredients than to make the stuff.

by hand, heck, it's still quick, but a workout.

now for the crab cakes:

1 pound fresh small or medium lump crab meat, uncooked
1 egg
1/4 - 1/2 c. finely chopped sweet red bell pepper, sauteed and cooled
1/2 small shallot, sauteed and cooled
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
black pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons flour, for crab mix
1/4 c. flour, for dredging cakes
1/4 c. grapeseed or extra-virgin olive oil or 2 tablespoons oil + 4 tablespoons butter

saute red pepper and shallot together in 1 tablespoon of the oil and let cool. gently, gently, gently with a broad tined fork, mix crab, egg, mustard, salt, black pepper if you like, the red pepper/shallot saute, and 2 tablespoons flour.

don't break up crab lumps! don't!

cover this mixture and set in freezer for 5-10 mins. this helps it hold together as you shape it into patties.

quickly and gently shape crab mixture into 4 nice patties. line a plate with plastic wrap, put patties on it gently, cover with more plastic wrap.

refrigerate for at least 30 mins. or freeze for 20. they will keep up to 1 day. but that's it.

the longer you chill 'em without freezing 'em, they more they hold together as you dredge and cook. plus the flavors blend and they taste better. . .

when you're ready to fry, put the oil or oil and butter in a 12-inch skillet. turn heat to medium.

when oil is hot, or when butter foam subsides, gently and quickly dredge a crab patty in some of the 1/4 c. flour. don't use too much!

gently tap off excess flour. carefully place crab patty in pan. repeat for the other 3.

once all 4 cakes are in the pan, turn the heat to medium-high.

cook about 5-8 mins. the first side, rotating gently every now and then. carefully turn cakes over and cook about 3 mins. on second side or until they are lightly brown or golden, as you like.

don't overcook or they will be rubbery. that's all bad.

serve cakes hot with chilled aioli sauce on a bed of microgreens or mesclun, decorated with sprigs of fresh dill, and thin stalks of steamed asparagus. gentle readers, you can steam asparagus, right?

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