This recipe is a little complex for camp, but we got the crab while camping, so here it is.
We spent a hot, buggy night at our family property out in the middle of nowhere last week. The next day, with it being in the 80s at home, we decided to head out to Doran Beach in Bodega Bay for a cooldown. The bay-side campgrounds are usually preferred because there is a lot of cypress there to block the wind. But we knew we wanted to fish off the jetty, so we risked getting a spot out at the end. It was a little windy, but after the previous night in Hades, we didn't mind. After we set up, we took the five minute walk out to the jetty and cast our crab snares in.
We fished for a couple of hours but could only snag undersize Dungies. This is pretty normal this time of year with the season being open for around 6 months now. As usual, while soaking our snares, we poke poled for Monkeyface Pricklebacks, despite the questionable legality of having one rod (crab snare) in the water while using another rod to fish for rockfish. Technically, Monkeyface eels are rockfish and you are only supposed to have one rod in the water when fishing for rockfish. We always hear how abundant the eels are on the jetty, but we are terrible at fishing so we rarely get one. That day was no exception.
At one point, a man next to us asked if we had a gauge. It's a no-no to crab without a gauge or measuring device, so we let him be "family" and use our gauge as he needed it. He had one keeper Dungie which he kept with our stuff (next to the gauge). After another hour, he asked me to take a picture of him and his daughter with their first crab. After that, he told us to enjoy the crab. Sometimes it seems like we have better luck having fish gifted to us than actually catching it ourselves; this is not the first time this has happened. Needless to say, we thanked him profusely. Yes it was just one 6" crab, but it was really nice to have some fresh crab to eat while out there.
We were a little tired, so I quickly boiled it up and cleaned it. Just kidding, there is no "quickly" cleaning crab. We made some quick crab tacos with the dill coleslaw I had already made. Went pretty good with a Barrel Brothers New England IPA (as a rabid contrarian, I've been boycotting IPAs for a few years since there is such a glut of them at the stores nowadays, but I'm back on 'em now). My wife despises hoppy things, except rabbits, so she enjoyed hers with a Barrel Brothers Porter.
The next morning, we hit the jetty by 8 and fished for a few hours. Right off the bat, I landed a Dungie that was just barely a keeper. A while later my wife landed a keeper rock crab. We threw the crabs in the fridge and headed home. We wanted crab cakes.
I cooked the crabs and put them in cold water for a bit, then spent about the next 150 hours cleaning them. My wife took over and finished cleaning them, just under another 100 hours later. I can't remember having cooked crab cakes before, so I looked up some recipes. I'm not really a Food Network kind of guy, but I do like to read Alton Brown's recipes when it comes to classic foods. Ironically, he had a recipe for Kimchi Crab Cakes, which is not so classic. We had some kimchi in the fridge from the farmer's market in town, so I decided to go for it. As usual, I read recipes as a guideline and then do the actual cooking without referring to the recipe that much. This is what I did:
1/2 Cup mayo
1 Meyer lemon
1 large egg
1/2 Cup (approx.) kimchi, drained, then diced, then drained again on a paper towel
Meat from 2 crabs (guesstimate: 1.25 Cups)
Panko Bread Crumbs
Zest the Meyer Lemon into a medium bowl. Slice the lemon into wedges and set aside.
Add mayo, egg, and kimchi to the bowl, then beat with a fork until egg is fully incorporated. Add about a 1/2 cup of panko crumbs and the crab meat, along with as much salt as you see fit. Black pepper gets mad when not invited, so throw some in if you like. Mix gently enough to keep the crab as intact as you like it. If you have time, chill this mixture so that it stiffens up a bit (I didn't do this and it turned out fine, but it would make the cakes a little easier to cook).
Put about 1/4" of oil in a skillet and set over medium to medium-high heat. Do not let the oil get hot enough to start smoking, but you want it hot enough to not lose all of its heat when you add the cakes. I've heard of something called a "thermometer" that helps with this, but it sounds like witchcraft.
Put enough panko crumbs on a plate. If you need a precise measurement, chill out. Look at the crab mixture and visualize dividing it into six portions. Grab one portion and shape it into a cake in your hand. You can dredge the cake in the panko if it is strong enough. If the mixture is a little loose, you can also sprinkle panko crumbs over one side, then flip it over in your hand and cover the other side with more crumbs. Do a little bit of hand gymnastics to get the edges covered. Gently place the cake in the hot oil, being careful to only get enough of the scalding fluid on your fingernails to remind you that you are alive. Curse words are scientifically proven to relieve the pain instantly. Repeat with the five remaining portions.
Fry the cakes until you can see the lower edges getting just darker than light golden. If you flip them too soon, you might have to flip them again and each flip risks breaking the cakes, especially when they aren't fully cooked. Just remember, good chefs feed the best ones to others, and keep the failures on their own plate. Since the process is kind of staggered, you won't have to flip the cakes all at once. Just remember which order you put them into the pan, and flip them accordingly. If you have a nice shirt on, this is where you will curse me because you will find that at least one drop of oil has landed on your belly, forever marring that wonderful fabric. Fry until the other sides are nicely browned. You can set finished cakes on a piece of wax paper or even a paper towel, or just right onto the serving plates. Don't overthink it.
Serve with lemon wedges. You could also whip up a nice dill Aioli if you have good eggs on hand. We just had ours with the lemon squeezed over. Kimchi may be controversial to you. If it is, toughen up a bit. But these cakes do not taste like kimchi. I was surprised at how well seasoned these tasted without really having any other seasoning in them. The kick from the kimchi is appropriate, and there is a bit of a crunch added as well, which is nice.
This could be pulled off in camp, but it would be a lot of work and cleanup, even if you premade the mixture.
Bonus Recipe: Quick Aioli (WARNING: Eating raw eggs will kill you, so DO NOT make this recipe under any circumstances.)
Traditional Aioli is like mayo's refined cousin, but will never admit to the relation. This quick Aioli is not as good as traditional, but you can make it in five minutes.
1/2 Cup oil (Canola oil works in a pinch, I prefer grapeseed. Light olive oil is good too. If you use extra virgin olive for this, the immersion blender tends to oxidize it rapidly and it will taste bitter.)
Juice of large half lemon (Meyer is best), and maybe a teensy bit of water
1 clove garlic, slightly chopped
2 large FRESH eggs
Squirt of quality dijon mustard
Herbs (dill is a favorite for seafood dishes)
Rinse the egg if it is dirty. If it is clean, rinse it anyway. This condiment will not be cooked, and you do not want whatever is on shell ending up in the aioli.
Gently strike the long side of the egg on a flat surface, not something sharp like the edge of a pan (never do this). If the egg is as fresh as it should be, and you cracked it as gently as you should have, a nice straight crack will occur around the egg's equator. You are welcome to crack the egg on a hard edge if you want, but people will snicker at you behind your back.
Over a small cup or ramekin, using both hands, carefully rotate both halves of the egg down so you are holding them like little bowls. The yolk (the big orange thing) should be in one of the halves. If it is not, carefully back away and call your dog into the kitchen, then start over with a new egg. Using the egg shells like bowls, pour the yolk back and forth, allowing the egg white to drain between the shells and into the ramekin. This is the easiest way to separate egg yolks, and you don't need a gadget to do it. You can feed the egg white to your dog, save it for an egg white omelet if you are an insane person, or even whip up some fancy cocktails (homemade sweet and sour mix anyone?).
Put the egg yolk in a tall, narrow cup that your immersion blender fits in. They usually come with a measuring cup for this purpose; those work best. Put the garlic and lemon juice in there as well, along with enough salt to make everyone happy. If you are adding the dijon, put that in as well. It helps emulsify the aioli, and adds a nice note. But you only need about a 1/4 teaspoon. Blend this thoroughly with the blender, until the yolk is nice and frothy, and the garlic is smooth. While running the blender, drizzle the oil into the mixture.
Traditional Aioli is made slowly with a mortar/pestle, and the oil must be added at an escargot's pace. Not so with the immersion blender, just drizzle it in there while blending. It takes about ten seconds to put the oil in. Once the oil is in, move the blender up and down a few times if needed. The aioli should have formed magically before your eyes. The thickness you achieve will be heavily based on how much water you added with the lemon juice, but it is also dependent on the yolk:oil ratio. If you did it right, you will have something similar to mayonnaise, but edible. If you are adding herbs, chop them finely and add at this point. Do use the blender unless it is St. Patrick's day. Fold them in with a spoon or a fork.
This recipe makes enough aioli for 2-3 people. Use a small rubber spatula to scrape it into ramekins. You can throw it in the fridge while you cook dinner if you want, but it is better if it is not totally cold when you serve it. This is great for artichokes. If you ever have to eat an old boot, I would recommend some aoili.
This recipe is totally scalable. The basic ratio is 1/4 cup oil to 1 egg yolk, with a little less than a tablespoon of lemon juice/water, and that makes enough for one person. I never measure the liquid, I just do it by feel. But sometimes it is thinner than I want, so if small failures are hard for you, measure the liquid and figure out the right amount for you.
Edited by Andy Douglass, 29 April 2019 - 03:28 AM.