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Crab cake bites and bacon fried pecans: Two do-ahead appetizers

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The Runaway Spoon

(Read caption) Use mini muffin tins to make these bite-sized crab cakes. Top them with an artichoke tartar sauce that comes together quickly in the food processor.

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Many years ago, I picked up a recipe card in the checkout line at a grocery store in London. It had a complicated fish recipe, but what attracted me was the artichoke tartar sauce. That card sat in my recipe file for years, until I rediscovered it and decided to give it a go. The recipe was a complete dud. Weird ingredients, lengthy procedures and it just didn’t come together. It left me with a bowl of gloopy, oddly colored mess. So I threw the card away (and the sauce).

But the idea stuck. A tangy, creamy sauce with a nice bite from artichoke hearts that would be a great accompaniment to seafood. So I persevered and came up with this version. I first took it to a friend’s house for a fish fry – they fried the fish caught that morning. It was a big hit, so I wanted to share the recipe. But it has taken me another few years to figure out how to do it. 

I don’t particularly enjoy frying fish myself, so no duplicating the tartar sauce’s triumphant debut. Then it hit me – crab cakes. Like a semi-deconstructed crab and artichoke dip. I fiddled with a classic crab cake recipe, paring it down to basic flavors so the tartar sauce wouldn’t be overwhelmed. And pressing the mixture into little muffin tins makes them easier to cook and perfect bites for a party – the tins can be filled and refrigerated just until ready to bake. A little dollop of tartar sauce makes them pretty, and the mini-sized, crispy sides make them easy to eat.

Crab cake bites
Makes 24 crab cakes 

For the crab cakes:

2 eggs

1 pound lump crabmeat (see note)

2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Pick over the crabmeat to make sure there are no pieces of shell, then add the crab to the eggs. Add the melted butter, mayonnaise and parsley and fold together gently. You want everything well combined but try not to break up the crabmeat.

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