I’m thinking about crab…

Thinking of it, reading about it, bumping into it for no real reason…crab has been popping up on my path of late.  A newly vegetarian friend of mine claims she’s come up with the perfect recipe for all-veg crab meat (me thinks not), while another swears he can’t tell the difference between the taste of real crab and faux. That he grew up in Kansas and may very well have never had real crab in his life might have something to do with this.

I’ve been doing a few parties of late, and clients almost always want to see crab show up somewhere. If they want crab on the dinner menu, it’s not usually a problem – I have quite a few recipes for crab appetizers and main course dishes. But crab hors d’oeurve can be a challenge, as the best ones are served hot, a la minute, fresh from the stovetop. If I’m paying that much attention to a single hors d’oeurve, as I need to be, I’m not paying attention on the fours courses that are to follow in short order.

Today, a solution arrived in the mail thanks to the folks at Bon Appetit Magazine.  It’s a recipe that has just the right combination of taste, appearance (we eat first with our eyes remember) and convenience.

Bon Appetit’s Mini Crab Cakes
Makes 24

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3/4C finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
1/4C sour cream
1t finely grated orange peel
1/2t finely grated lemon peel
4 t, plus 2T chopped fresh chives, divided
1/4t coarse Kosher salt
large pinch of cayenne pepper
6 ounces fresh lump crab meat, picked over, patted dry, coarsely shredded
1C Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus more for taste
Fresh chives, cut into pieces for garnish

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Add 1/4C Parmesan and egg; beat until blended. Beat in sour cream, citrus peel, 4t chopped chives, salt and cayenne. Fold in crab meat. You can make this recipe to this point one day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 350. Generously butter 2 mini muffin tins. Toss Panko , 1/2C Parmesan and 2T chopped chives in a small bowl. Drizzle 1/4C melted butter over, tossing with fork until evenly moistened. Press 1 rounded tablespoon of the Panko mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup, forming a crust. Spoon 1 generous tablespoon of the crab mixture into each cup.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden on top and set. Cool in pans 5 minutes. Run knife around each cake and gently lift out of pan. You can make recipe to this point 2 hours ahead. Arrange on baking sheet; let stand at room temperature. Rewarm at 350 for 6-8 minutes.

Arrange on serving platter, sprinkle with chives.

These are easy to prepare, full of flavor and crunch,  and they look great on the plate. There’s no frying involved so this is healthier than the original recipe, made more so by substituting low fat (NOT no fat) cream cheese and sour cream for full.

I’m thinking that I’ll be adding this recipe to the collection.

Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef, living and working in Phoenix, AZ. (c) All Rights Reserved 2009

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