Crab Cakes with Piquillo Pepper Vinaigrette

Crab cakes, to be honest, are usually disappointing.  They’re dry or contain very little crab.  What’s the point of a crab cake if there’s no crab?

In our house, Thomas Keller is a culinary genius.  Around here, we just know him as “Tom.”  We started out with his cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, and since then, we’ve been working our way through his Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.  You could almost call this summer the “Summer of Thomas Keller.”

One of our favorite recipes, so far, is Tom’s recipe for crab cakes.  They’re moist, they’re savory, and they’re full of sweet crab—just the way a crab cake should be.

Crab Cakes with Piquillo Pepper Vinaigrette 

Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound lump and/or jumbo crabmeat
  • 1/4 cup good mayonnaise
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/3 cups panko crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • canola oil
  • 2 cups piquillo peppers (jarred roasted red peppers found at most grocery stores)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit.  Remove any seeds from the piquillo peppers.  Put the peppers in a small baking dish.  Stir in the 1/4 cup of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt.  Put in the oven and cook until the peppers are meltingly tender, 45-50 minutes.
  2. Pour the peppers, with their liquid, into a blender.  Add 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar and blend until smooth.  Season to taste with additional vinegar if necessary and salt.  Set aside (can be made early and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks).
  3. Position two oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion and pepper.  Add garlic.  Cook, stirring often, until the onion and pepper are tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
  5. Make sure crabmeat is free of shells and cartilage.  Place the crabmeat in a fine-mesh strainer and drain well.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the cayenne, Worcestershire, mustard, parsley, Old Bay, teaspoon of salt, and lemon juice to combine well.  Stir in 1/3 cup of the panko crumbs and the onion mixture.  Gently fold in the crab.  Lightly whisk the egg in a small bowl and gently fold it into the mixture.
  7. Put the remaining 2 cups of panko crumbs in a shallow bowl.  Divide the crab mixture into 10 equal portions.  One portion at a time, gently shape the mixture into a ball, roll gently in the panko to coat, and shape into a slightly flattened ball about 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick.  Add a bit more panko as needed to coat, and set on a plate.
  8. Heat some canola oil in each of two large ovenproof frying pans over medium heat until it shimmers.  If you don’t have two pans, cook the cakes in batches and transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet, then finish in the oven.)  Add the cakes, pat down gently, still maintaining the rounded shape, and cook until golden brown on the first side, about 5 minutes.  With a spatula, gently turn each crab cake over and cook on the second side for another 5 minutes, or until golden brown.  Transfer the pans to the oven and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, to ensure that the crab cakes are hot throughout.
  9. Like a small baking sheet with paper towels.  Transfer the crab cakes to the towels to briefly drain.  Arrange the crab cakes on a serving platter and serve the piquillo pepper vinaigrette on the side.
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