Friday, August 28, 2009

Crabby Patty

After the salmon cake disaster of '09, I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of attempting to make my mom's crab cakes - especially while she's standing over my shoulder. So, I made sure we had plenty of wine on hand.

First mission: Ingredients. I was told we'd need the following: Crab meat, mayo, mustard, cream cheese, Old Bay, 1 egg, Capers

Lucky for me (and my wallet) mom already has a can of crab meat. The mayo, mustard, Old Bay & egg I already had, but the cream cheese & capers would require a stop at the grocery store. As I walked into Food Lion, I started to think: If I was a caper, where would I be? My gut reaction - condiments....Capers 1, Jess 0. Next thought: I know they come in a jar like artichokes, lets check there....The capers are winning and I'm getting annoyed - this is exactly why me & cooking don't get along, I don't like complicated. So what else comes in a jar? Pickles!...No luck near the pickles. Since I've gotten it in my head that I'm going to be independent in this endeavor, instead of asking someone I start wandering around hoping I'll run into the elusive capers. Right as I start to admit defeat, I stumble upon the Sun of Italy Italian Foods section (it has its own sign) and ta-da: take that capers. Why my Food Lion has a section devoted to this particular brand of Italian foods is yet to be determined....So capers - check, cream cheese - check. But the sight that made all apprehension of my pending culinary doom melt away as I walked up to the checkout line: the little old lady in front of me (think Ellen Dow singing Rappers Delight in the Wedding Singer) & her 12 pack of Milwaukee's Best. No food, just beer. Brought me back to my days in Mechanicsville :)

Moving on...Aunt T (short for Tammy) & mom show up at the house bearing crab meat and more wine (always brings a smile to my face). If you're wondering why my mom never taught me how to cook before, that question should be rephrased: Why had I not learned to cook from my mom before? Because I'm a bigger fan of eating food than making it, so when someone else is making it, all I care about is eating it.

We start by setting out all the ingredients (OK we really start by opening the wine...but you get the idea). The nice thing about this recipe is all I really needed were the ingredients, their measurements & to dump them in a bowl. (e-mail me if you'd like the full recipe!) I was then instructed to mix these thoroughly so no one ended up biting into a blob of mayo.

While doing this my mom gave me a little background on how she's developed this recipe: She learned some from her mom, some of it was trial & error and the capers & cream cheese was something she learned while eating crab cakes at the Mills House in Charleston, SC.

I got everything well mixed, now comes the part I don't like: making the patties. I'm not fond of this critical step for 2 reasons: 1. I don't like getting my hands dirty :) and 2. my patties never look pretty. Going the independent route I try the 1st one without mom's coaching (I have to note that it is incredibly hard for her to stand by & watch, we joke that she's like Monica on Friends: she likes things done the right way, and the right way is her way. Oh and she's very competitive, especially at pool....she once "taught" my friend Logan how to play by kicking her ass and following it up with "Rack 'em loser!" so I was not at all trying to make mine look better than hers). After 3 minutes of me, the crab cake and a little grumbling I decided to let her show me some technique. I learned I was being too nice to the crab cake, it needed some tough love to make it look appetizing. My 2nd attempt was much better:

Attempts 3-6 went well and I even had a little leftover to make make a little mini guy, although mom warned that we'd need to watch him because he'd cook faster.

Into the oven they went, 400ยบ for 20 minutes, then flip them for another 10 or so. While those are doing their thing, now comes the dangerous part, playing with knives. I decided to make a salad using romaine lettuce, diced tomato, diced red onion, feta and homemade red wine vinaigrette - fancy right? The dressing was really simple, I just mixed olive oil, red wine vinegar and this garlic & herb seasoning mix. I'm happy to report that no fingers were lost in the making of this beautiful salad:

Mom's advice on dressing: go light, start with just 1-2 tbsps. drizzled on the lettuce before you add the toppings. Toss it well and add more if needed, but you'll be surprised how little you actually need once you toss it.

Now its the moment of truth, mom, Aunt T, Ty and myself sit down to this lovely looking spread, but we all know looks can be deceiving....

The verdict: Jess CAN cook crab cakes :) and the salad was pretty good too.

Ty's Take: "I liked the crab cakes, but I don't like capers. I thought the they were cooked very well and the texture was perfect. I've had some that are too soft or gooey and these were just right. I also like the salad, I didn't think I would like the dressing or onions, but it was very good." (Jury please disregard the capers comments as my boyfriend's dislike for them should have no bearing on the initial ruling)

After dinner Ty wanted to show us a little gratitude by whipping up milkshakes for dessert, but the subject of the perfect chocolate milkshake has always caused debate between us: what makes a better chocolate milkshake, using vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup (apparently that's called a Black & White among the milkshake elite) or using chocolate ice cream? Ty's a black & white fan, I say its a freaking chocolate milkshake, shouldn't the base of it be chocolate? The compromise (or my way of getting what I want), I bought a carton of 1/2 vanilla, 1/2 chocolate :) and it was delicious.


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