Baked Crab Cakes with Spicy Garlic Lime Aioli

January 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

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I love crab cakes, but am often disappointed at restaurants because they can be made with a lot of “filler,” like red peppers, onions, breading, and mayonnaise.  In my opinion, extensive ingredients hide the sweet flavor of the crab. Dungeness crabs are in season here on the West Coast. They are somewhat pricy, but I have always wanted to try making crab cakes (and have promised to try making them in my 12 x 2012 challenge) so I bit the bullet and bought two whole crabs at Whole Foods.  If you’re eager to get to the recipe, you can scroll to the bottom of this post.

After scouring my cookbooks and the internet for a suitable recipe for crab cakes, I realized that they are pretty fattening! Most recipes include whole fat mayo in the mix, and then the cakes themselves are fried in oil. So I set out to create a delicious crab cake on the healthier side. These crab cakes certainly are not low-calorie, but I’ve done my best to lower the overall fat content, and use healthy fats when possible. I wanted my crab cakes to taste like crab, and use dips or sauces on the side to introduce more exotic flavors.  So this is a very versatile recipe.

Crab cakes are expensive to make.  Two crabs cost me $36.  Plus, there is the indirect cost to the environment.  Being mindful of our food sources, how they are harvested, and sustainability in general is important to me so I’m happy to report that dungeness crab is at least on the not-as-bad list.  And there is the expense of my time… it took 3 hours from start to finish to complete the crab cakes.  Of course, making them from scratch was very satisfying, and so much better than buying them frozen or pre-made (and how old?) from the seafood section at the deli.Cost aside, the resulting crab cakes were very tasty, light in comparison to many I’ve tried, and would be excellent for impressing dinner party guests.

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It took quite a bit of elbow grease to pick these precooked big boys. Back in Maine I’ve eaten my share of hard-shelled lobsters over the years, so getting the job done was pretty intuitive. If you need it, one of the better photo tutorials I found for cracking Dungeness crabs online is by Dianasaur.  The two crabs yielded about 19 ounces of fresh, lumpy crab meat.

Rather than use mayonnaise, I decided to try my hand at a modified aioli.  I took the easy route for the aioli and used my blender, but you can also whisk by hand. Olive oil is so flavorful, but there is no substitute for the flavor of butter when it comes to certain seafood, so I used both.

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I toasted the panko I used for dredging, knowing that the breading would look pretty pale since I wasn’t planning to fry the cakes.  I highly recommend toasting the panko, it was easy, quick, and used 2 teaspoons of oil for the coating – vs. 2 1/2 inches of oil in the pan if you were to fry the cakes!

Constructing the crab cakes was a lot easier than I thought it might be.  To further reduce the need for more added fat, I baked my crab cakes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

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RECIPE:
Baked Crab Cakes with Spicy Garlic Lime Aioli

Garlic Lime Aioli*

1 very fresh egg, room temperature
2 T white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
1/2 light olive oil
2 T butter, melted but returned to room temperature
1 small garlic clove
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1/8 lime (wedge)

Crack egg into blender and add vinegar.  Pulse a few times to mix, then set to a low setting (I used “mix”) and pour oil, then butter, slowly into the tiny opening at the top of the blender while it is running.  Drop garlic clove, salt, and pepper in, then squeeze juice from lime wedge in last.  Aioli will be the consistency of thick cream or gravy.

*I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure you could substitute regular full-fat mayonnaise for the aioli in this recipe if you’re short on time or would prefer not to serve raw egg.

Spicy Garlic Lime Aioli (condiment to accompany crab cakes)

4 T Garlic Lime Aioli
1/2 t Sriracha, or “Rooster Sauce”

Blend aioli in small bowl and Sriracha gently.  Cover and refrigerate.  Serve within 24 hours.

Toasted Panko

1 cup panko
2 t light olive oil

Combine panko and oil in large frying pan.  On medium heat, lightly stir panko and oil until it is nice and toasty brown, roughly 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour toasted panko onto a large dinner plate or other flat surface for dredging.

Crab Cakes

1 lb well-drained lump crab meat
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 T garlic aioli
1/8 lime (wedge)
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

In medium-sized mixing bowl, combine crab, egg, and aioli.  Squeeze juice from lime wedge and mix well.  Add panko 1/4 cup at a time.  You want mixture to be moist but not too wet.  If mixture is dry, add more aioli, and if mixture is too wet, add more panko.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Form into cakes.  For the large crab cakes I made (of which this recipe yields a total of 6) firmly pack mixture into 1/2 cup measuring cup, tap out, and flatten.  Dredge cakes in toasted panko and refrigerate for 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake chilled crab cakes on parchment-lined cookie sheet for 10 minutes on each side, for a total of 20 minutes.  If cakes are not sufficiently browned or hot, bake for additional 2 minute increments until you are pleased.

Serve immediately with Spicy Garlic Lime Aioli, or cool and refrigerate for up to 2 days, being sure to heat to steaming hot before serving.  We ate our crab cakes with a radish, arugula, and baby spinach salad with a homemade balsamic lime vinaigrette.

Serves 4-6 if making large crab cakes for a meal, or you makes up to 20 mini crab cakes.

Happy munching,
Sarah

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