A friend of mine, who loves crab cakes as much as I do, taught me the secret to great crab cakes — don’t skimp on the filler.
I know. It sounds counter-intuitive. And you’ll certainly never see a menu bragging about the filler in their crab cakes, instead they brag about how the cake is almost pure crab. Big chunks of lump crab, at that. But according to my friend, and my own experience, the cake should be about 30 percent filler.
Clearly, in a case like this, the quality of the filler really matters so stay away from those commercial breadcrumbs that come in a tube. My preference is for crumbs made from good sourdough bread, but the essential point is to make your own crumbs from good bread.
When I made these, I had some avocado ranch dressing in the fridge and it made an excellent sauce for the cakes.
1/2 lb crab — picked over
1/2 ea jalapeno pepper — minced
salt to taste
2/3 c bread crumbs — separated
1/2 ea lime — juice and zest
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp minced red onion
2 tbsp minced parsley
salt to taste
1/3 c mayonnaise
3 tbsp butter
Combine all ingredients except 1/3 cup bread crumbs and butter in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Form mixture into four patties on a sheet of waxed paper. Sprinkle with half of remaining bread crumbs and pat. Turn patties over and coat side and edges with remaining bread crumbs. Refrigerate patties for at least 30 minutes and, if tightly covered as long as overnight.
Heat skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and swirl to melt. Cook patties until browned on one side, about 3 minutes, flip and cook until the other side is browned.
Avocado Ranch Dressing
(Adapted from a recipe in Cooks Illustrated) Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 ea Hass avocado , ripe, pitted, flesh scooped from skin
1/2 tsp Tabasco
1 ea lime — juiced
1/2 c buttermilk
1/4 c mayonnaise
1 tbsp minced red onion
1 tbsp minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 clove garlic — minced
1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
KevinÂ Weeks is a Gather food correspondent (Paisano), personal chef, cooking teacher, and writer in Knoxville, Tennessee who spends too many hours on his feet, cooking. “Paisano” is a column focused on peasant dishes from around the world. To read more of Kevin’s writings or connect to him click here. His blog,Seriously Good, is read by 75,000 cooks a month and in addition he writes a weekly column forSpot-On.Â