I have been meaning to try my hand at crab cakes for a while, mainly because the Frenchman adores them, and because I spotted some lump crabmeat at the fishmonger's the other day. (It really doesn’t take much.) Since these need to hang out in the fridge for a few hours, feel free to make them the morning of. You should be left with a little extra aioli, which I suggest serving alongside the crab cakes, in addition to lemon wedges and an extra sprinkling of cayenne pepper. You could also toss the extra aioli with some roasted potatoes as an accompaniment, which I promise will be delicious.
Test Kitchen Notes
I WOULD discover this recipe only weeks after leaving DC, where lump crab is so bountiful! Here, the fennel and apple pair naturally with the crab, playing up its delicate sweetness and providing a crunchy counterpoint to the tender meat. Cristinasciarra calls for one fennel bulb and half an apple, but I might push it a bit farther to ensure that their subtle flavors don’t get lost in the mix. The garlic’s heat and lemon’s acidity give the aioli enough kick to round out the flavor. To lend a little color and brightness to the creamy interior, I folded in a few fennel fronds as well. —lisina
about 10 crab cakes
1 egg yolk, at room temperature, as fresh as possible
cloves garlic, minced
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil, or other neutral oil
1 green apple
lump crab meat
panko bread crumbs
Canola oil and unsalted butter, for cooking
In This Recipe
Empty the egg yolk into a small bowl and mix with the minced garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard and a few generous turns of the pepper mill.
Slowly incorporate the oil in a thin stream, while constantly beating with a fork or mini whisk. Continue whisking for about 5 minutes, until the mayonnaise has risen in the bowl, turned a very pale yellow and has a consistency firm enough to stick handily to the back of a spoon. Mix in the lemon juice and the cayenne. Add sea salt to taste. Let the mayonnaise rest in the fridge, covered, for at least one hour before use. (This can also be made a night ahead.)
Remove the stems from your fennel, and then peel the top layer of the bulb. Halve the bulb, and lay each half flat side down on your cutting board. Thinly slice. Sauté the slices over medium-low heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Let the fennel cool slightly, and then roughly chop it.
Wash and trim your scallions, then thinly slice the white parts only.
Halve and core your apple. Lay the flat sides on your cutting board, and thinly slice crosswise and then lengthwise—you're aiming for small batons of apple.
In a large bowl, gently mix the crab with 3/4 cup of the aioli, a few tablespoons at a time. Incorporate the panko breadcrumbs, and then fold in the fennel, scallions and apple.
Form the crab into patties, and then move them to a plate. Cover them with plastic and refrigerate for about 2 hours—you want them to solidify slightly, so they don't fall apart during cooking, and you want to give the flavors a chance to marry.
In a wide sauté pan or shallow Dutch oven, heat some canola oil and butter. Cook the crab cakes a few at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook them for a few minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown.
Serve with the extra aioli, lemon wedges, a sprinkling of cayenne and/or hot sauce.
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at theroamingkitchen.com.