Faux crab cakes can have real taste


There is a certain irony to the way we treat crab meat, and where we are most contradictory is with crab cakes.

While insisting that the crab for a crab cake be first-class and that there be little if any filler, we sometimes add ingredients almost guaranteed to upstage the crab -- corn, red-pepper puree, poultry seasoning, shark fins, Cajun spice, high-voltage salsa, wasabi and cilantro.

If you're going to make a seafood cake that tastes heavily of some high-visibility ingredient, why spend a fortune on crab you won't really be able to taste? Instead, consider another seafood.

Clambake Cakes

Makes 6 servings

1 to 2 tablespoons butter, divided

4 scallions, finely chopped

1 cup fresh corn kernels

1 small hot pepper, seeded, finely chopped

2 cups chopped clams, drained

2 cups mashed potatoes

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

salt, cayenne pepper to taste

chili butter (recipe follows)

In a small skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Saute scallions, corn and hot pepper 5 minutes. Add clams and potatoes. Mix well. Add egg and cilantro. Shape into 6 cakes. Saute in a nonstick skillet about 10 minutes per side or until well-browned on both sides. Use remaining butter for frying if desired. Serve immediately drizzled with chili butter.

Note: To add extra flavor, use instant mashed potatoes reconstituted with fish broth made with a fish bullion cube and drained juice from clams.

To make chili butter, stir 1 teaspoon chili powder into 3 tablespoons of hot melted butter. Stir to blend well. Drizzle over Corn

Clam Cakes.

Faux Crab Cakes

Makes 4 servings

1 pound imitation crab meat

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lemon juice

grated rind of one lemon

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons grated onion

salt, cayenne pepper

fresh bread crumbs

olive oil pan spray

With your fingers (or a fork) shred imitation crab coarsely, leaving some pea-sized pieces. Stir in mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon rind, ginger, grated onion. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Add fresh bread crumbs to make a firm mixture. Shape into 4 large crab cakes. Refrigerate covered at least 1 hour. Imitation crab is sometimes quite watery. Before frying, blot carefully with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Fry in nonstick skillet coated with olive oil pan spray for about 10 minutes per side or until browned and crispy.

Chinatown Seacakes

Makes enough for 4 servings

1/2 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined

1/2 pound scallops

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 egg, beaten

salt, cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon butter

Ginger-Scallion Topping

In processor container, process shrimp and scallop with garlic. Mixture should look slightly lumpy from shrimp. Stir in bread crumbs, lemon juice, egg. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Shape into 4 cakes. Blot lightly with paper towel before sauteing in butter. Saute until lightly browned, about 10 minutes per side.

Serve with Ginger-Scallion Topping, made by sauteing 1 tablespoon shredded fresh ginger and 2 chopped scallions in 1 tablespoon oil for 1 minute. Stir in 1 tablespoon soy sauce, a few drops of sesame oil and 1/4 teaspoon sugar.

Tuna-Potato Cakes

Tuna-Potato Cakes will taste better if you use oil-packed tuna, which has more flavor than the water-packed variety. Try to avoid breaking up the tuna too much. The texture will be better if there are recognizable chunks of fish.

Makes 4 servings

2 (6 1/8 -ounce cans chunk tuna in oil, drained

1 medium size baking potato, peeled, grated

1/2 small onion, peeled, grated

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 egg

fresh bread crumbs

salt, cayenne pepper to taste

Herb Butter (recipe follows)

With fork, combine tuna, grated potato and onion, parsley and egg. Add bread crumbs to make mixture firm enough to form into patties. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper. Shape into 4 large patties. Saute in nonstick skillet to brown nicely, about 10 minutes per side. At serving time, portion 1 teaspoon butter on each tuna cake. Serve immediately.

Herb Butter

1/4 cup softened butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs

Blend herbs into softened butter using a fork. Cover and refrigerate. Use 4 teaspoons as directed above. Leftover herb butter may be used on seafood, meat poultry or vegetable dishes.

Note: Lemon thyme, lemon verbena, tarragon, chives, cilantro or basil would be our first choice of herbs. Lacking those, use chopped Italian parsley.

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