As the weather gets warmer, I cook lighter. And in The Husband's taxonomy of food, crab cakes are relatively light. So I thought I'd employ of couple of seasonal stars -- peas and radishes -- to put a spring spin on them.
I blithely went shopping for fresh crab meat at my local market, but found to my horror that it's almost unaffordably pricey -- and that pasteurized refrigerated crab meat isn't much cheaper. In search of an ingredient with which to stretch the crab (I thought of it as Crab Helper), I settled on boiled shrimp, which are readily available, but not astronomically expensive. Happily, the crab and the shrimp played very nicely together.
As this also is the season for fresh peas, I added some of them to the crab/shrimp mix. Their natural sweetness chimes in well with the shellfish, and they add a little crunchy pop to the texture of the cakes.
Flavor and texture aside, I used to discount the nutritional value of peas, until I finally scrutinized the data and discovered that the little fellers are packed with protein, fiber and micronutrients. If you find fresh peas at the farmer's market, by all means scoop them up. But keep in mind that the sugar in fresh peas starts turning to starch the minute they're harvested, so be sure to bring them home, shell them and boil them right away.
And if your only option is frozen peas, don't despair. Those guys are picked at the height of their ripeness and blanched immediately in water, which sets their flavor and texture.
We bind up the cakes with eggs, mayonnaise and panko breadcrumbs, then season them with tarragon, which always teams up nicely with both shellfish and peas. If you're not a fan of tarragon, which is unpleasantly reminiscent of licorice to some folks, substitute some dill, chives or parsley. The panko does double duty, thickening the interior of the cakes and adding crunch to their crust. And as long as you brown the cakes in a nonstick or stick-resistant skillet, you won't have to use much oil.
The cakes are topped off with a peppery cream flavored by both horseradish and red radishes. Kissing cousins from the same family -- brassicaceae -- the radishes add a little kick to the otherwise bland shellfish. The sour cream is a moist and tangy complement to the panko crust. The Husband was very happy with my springtime rendition of one of his faves!
What you need:
- Half a pound peeled and deveined cooked shrimp.
- One large egg, plus one egg yolk.
- One cup cooked English peas or thawed frozen peas.
- Half a cup finely chopped scallions.
- One and two-thirds cups panko breadcrumbs, divided.
- Quarter cup light mayonnaise.
- One to two tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, or to taste.
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper.
- Half a pound lump crab meat, picked over for any shells.
- Two tablespoons vegetable oil, divided.
- Quarter cup plus two tablespoons light sour cream.
- One cup coarsely shredded red radishes.
- One tablespoon bottled horseradish (do not drain).
In a food processor, pulse the shrimp until very finely chopped, but not reduced to a paste. Transfer the chopped shrimp to a medium bowl and add the egg and egg yolk, peas, scallions, two-thirds cup of the panko, the mayonnaise, tarragon, half a teaspoon of salt and a quarter teaspoon of pepper. Stir well, then gently fold in the crabmeat. Divide the mixture into eight portions, shaping each into a patty. Coat the patties with the remaining panko.
In a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat one tablespoon of the oil. Reduce the heat to medium, then add four of the patties and cook until golden, about four minutes per side. Transfer the patties to a rimmed baking sheet and place them in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining patties, using the remaining one tablespoon of oil in the skillet.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the sour cream, radishes and horseradish. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, arrange two patties per plate and top with the radish sauce.
Start to finish: 30 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving: 450 calories; 170 calories from fat (38 percent of total calories); 19 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 250 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 32 g protein; 900 mg sodium.