Wednesday, September 26, 2007

There's a First Time for Everything...

Confession: Are there certain foods that you enjoy eating out, or when someone else prepares them, but intimidate you when it comes to cooking it at home? It may even be something simple, like an artichoke for instance.

Friday night came, and after a week of travel for Scott, we both felt like staying in. Since Friday night usually means going out for happy hour, I wanted to keep that theme but do it at home. I also had the urge to challenge myself to try one of those "intimidating" foods. So, while I was "studying" material for a business trip to Dallas next week, I came up with our happy hour appetizer menu. I was going to conquer artichokes, and crab cakes. Two new cooking challenges! With shrimp cocktail and cheese and crackers, we had the perfect "in home happy hour."

I prepared the artichoke as I had seen done by a chef teaching a recent knife skills class. After steaming the artichoke, I made a simple sauce that I also learned in the class, which consisted of 1 part stone ground mustard, to 2 parts mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Scott and I started off the happy hour with the artichoke and a glass of pinot grigio while planning the crab cakes. The artichoke was excellent -and I overcame my (minor) intimidation of cooking an artichoke.

With my newfound confidence, I decided that the crab cake couldn't be just any ordinary crab cake, but instead I would try to recreate an excellent crab cake we had recently. What makes it different you ask? Imagine a crab cake with huge lump meat crab, very little breading, just a touch of mayo, and a crab-tastic taste. That's what I was aiming for.

I used the recipe in Amanda Hesser's Cooking For Mr. Latte as a base, but also incorporated the recipe on the crab meat container. Served a top an apple fennel slaw, which is an idea I stole from the restaurant Skye, on a recent visit.

Mo-Style Crab Cakes:
1/2 lb fresh lump crab meat (not the fake crab!)
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp mayo
1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs
1 egg
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
1-2 Tbsp. red bell pepper, finely chopped (or use green pepper)
1 Tbsp. green onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. chives, finely chopped
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (I substituted a seafood seasoning blend)
1/4 cup (or more) panko - Japanese bread crumbs (or sub. crushed crackers)
1 Tbsp each, butter and olive oil for frying.
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the crab and the rest of the ingredients, except panko and olive oil/butter. Gently mix. Form into thick patties and coat with panko. Heat saute pan over medium high heat and add butter and olive oil. After well heated (butter is slightly browned) add the crab cakes. Cook 8-10 minutes turning once - or until done.
Step-by-step photos: first up, the crab cakes prior to cooking. Next, are the crab cakes getting nice and toasty on the stove.

Apple Fennel Slaw:

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced into matchsticks
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 cup green cabbage, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp red bell pepper, sliced
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

Combine ingredients for dressing in a large bowl. Add the vegetables and apple and combine.

Below is my plate of the complete happy hour tasting menu.


Unknown said...

Beautiful! What a great menu! I'm glad you conquered your fear and tried the artichoke - I bet it tasted even better since you made it! :) I love doing appetizer nights. Its fun and you get a variety of food and don't eat too much.

Kirsten said...

How fun! And everything looks delicious.