A crab cake needs only a couple of things to win me over: it has to be mostly crab, and the crab has to be fresh. Those caveats aside, I'm happy to eat nearly any variation. And I was VERY happy to eat Nigel Slater's version from his newest cookbook, Eat. Simple and smart, they only require throwing a hot chili pepper, a garlic clove, a bit of bread, and a lot of cilantro into a food processor, then combining the mixture with lump crabmeat and mirin. Formed into little balls and pan-fried (gently now, they're just barely held together), they are crisp, crabby, and terrifically aromatic. The cilantro may seem like overkill, but it wasn't overwhelming, and the touch of mirin helped soften the intensity of the herb and the chili.
Why I picked this recipe: Crab cakes with twist!
What worked: I loved all the flavor going on here. It was in balance and didn't overpower the crab.
What didn't: Trying to sear the delicate balls on all sides was tedious and required too much handling; I lost one or two balls and was forced to eat the fall-out straight out of the pan.
Suggested tweaks: Next time, I would just pat the mixture into regular old cakes that I'd only have to flip once. Also, heads-up: the recipe calls for a large bunch of cilantro, but my 'large bunch' was about four times the weight measurement he gives, so go by the weight if you have a scale.
Reprinted with permission from Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food by Nigel Slater, copyright ©2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.
- Yield:Serves 3 to 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 1 hot red chili
- 1 garlic clove
- 3 1/2 ounces soft white bread
- 1 large bunch cilantro (about 2/3 ounce, including both the leaves and the thinner stalks)
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 14 ounces lump crabmeat
- Salt and black pepper
- Sunflower or peanut oil, for frying
- Lime halves, for serving
Put a hot red chili, including the seeds, into a food processor with a garlic clove, 3 1/2 ounces (100g) soft white bread, and a large bunch of cilantro (about 2/3 ounce / 20g, including both the leaves and the thinner stalks). Process till ﬁnely chopped, then transfer to a mixing bowl and add 2 tablespoons of mirin and 14 ounces (400g) lump crabmeat. Season with salt and black pepper. Mix well, then shape the mixture into 12 small balls. Warm a very ﬁne layer of sunﬂower or peanut oil in a nonstick frying pan, add the crab balls, and cook over low heat till they are deep golden on the underside. Turn and continue cooking till they are colored all over. Serve immediately with halves of lime.