My memories of savoring freshly prepared crab are very rustic and humble. I grew up on the East coast, where blue crab was plentiful. My mom would bring them home live from the market, and the lively critters would scamper in the paper bags, sometimes escaping. The sight of a crab scrabbling across our kitchen floor would make me scream and laugh, until mom deftly swiped it up with her tongs — a quick rinse under the faucet and into its bubbly, boiling fate it would go.
The crabs were sweet and tender, and in true Filipino fashion, the preferred dipping sauce was a garlic infused vinegar. My parents were always puzzled at how restaurants served crab with butter – why ruin an already good thing?
If you grew up with the opposite experience, you may find the vinegar and garlic off putting, but I assure you, it’s not! It truly complements the crab’s sweetness perfectly.
Now that I’m on the West coast, Dungeness crabs are my crabby meat. It’s not nearly as sweet as blue crab, but because of their size, your hard shelling work is rewarded with larger lumps of luscious morsels. And because the flavors are milder, I can appreciate now how butter might come into play, but I still prefer my tangy and pungent flavors.
Tangy. Pungent. Spicy. These are the flavors I crave now, and it’s no wonder that I have fallen in love with chimichurri sauce. Often seen served with Argentinian style grilled meats, I have found that I love drizzling the potent sauce on nearly everything. And you know what? It works like a charm on crab cakes.
Crab Cakes with Chimichurri Dressed Pea Sprouts & Avocado is an explosion of flavors I truly think you will enjoy. Cilantro, parsley & jalapeno add life to the lofty crab cakes, which have a light crunch from panko bread crumbs. Served on a little pool of chimichurri, the sauce cuts into the cakes like a grown up tartar sauce. Add some creaminess and crunch with avocado and some pea sprouts, and your crab cakes are dinner party ready.
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- 3 large garlic cloves
- 2 cups fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley
- ¼ cup sherry vinegar
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 8 oz fresh Dungeness crab meat (or your favorite crab), cooked
- 4 tablespoons celery, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups fresh pea sprouts (or fresh micro greens)
- 2 avocados, sliced
Using a food processor, finely chop the garlic. Add cilantro, parsley, sherry vinegar, oil, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pulse until herbs are finely chopped. Set aside or store tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Can be made a day or two in advance.
Pick through the crab meat and remove all shells. Gently squeeze the crab meat to remove excess liquid. Combine the crab, celery, cilantro, parsley, jalapeno, and lemon zest in a bowl and stir. Add the mayonnaise and stir until it is well incorporated. Diving the mixture into 4 portions, form patties. If you have a 2 inch ring mold, that helps to form even patties, 2 inches wide and about 1 1/2 inches high. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until ready to cook and serve.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the tops and bottoms of the crab cakes with the panko crumbs. Heat olive oil in the skillet, add the crab cakes and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side, until the cakes are golden brown on both sides. If you wish, you can cook the second side by placing in a 350º oven for the last 3 minutes.
To serve, place one crab cake on a teaspoon of the chimichurri sauce. Toss pea sprouts in a few tablespoons of the sauce and place on the plate. Top sprouts with avocado slices and drizzle a bit of the sauce on top. Serve immediately.
Chimichurri sauce adapted from Gourmet, January 2001, via Epicurious.
Crab Cakes adapted from Boulevard: The Cookbook (Oakes, Mazzola & Weiss, 2005).