Mini Crab Cakes with Cilantro-Lime Aioli


These little crab cakes were the first to disappear at the dinner party I hosted Saturday evening. Based on a Bon Appetit recipe I spotted in the April 2009 issue, the crab cakes are assembled by layering bread crumb mixture and a savory crab filling in mini muffin tins. They are baked instead of fried, and can be prepared ahead of time—a godsend when it’s 30 minutes until the guests arrive and you’ve yet to hop in the shower.

Since I found the original results a bit plain as an appetizer, I put together a cilantro-lime aioli to drizzle over the tops before serving. I made my aioli from scratch in the food processor with egg yolks and vegetable oil, but in a pinch you can blend a cup of prepared mayo with a bunch of cilantro, a generous squeeze of lime, and two garlic cloves. Blitz them in your blender or processor for a minute then serve. The result is similar and the color will grab everyone’s attention. Leftovers make a natural addition to your weekday sandwiches.



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Mini Crab Cakes with Cilantro-Lime Aioli
Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009
If lump crab stretches your budget too much, feel free to replace with claw meat. It’s usually half the price and the flavor and texture will be similar in a recipe like this. Avoid the temptation to use imitation crab (or “krab”) as it’s loaded with preservatives, artificial color, and sugar.

Ingredients

8 oz Neufchâtel or cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1 large egg
1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt such as Fage or Oikos
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
4 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
6 oz fresh lump crabmeat, picked over and coarsely shredded
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or plain, unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
Fresh chives, cut into 1” pieces
Cilantro-lime aioli (recipe below)

2 mini muffin pans


DirectionsIn the bowl of your electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of the Pecorino and the egg; beat until incorporated. Beat in the yogurt, zest, 4 teaspoons chopped chives, salt, and spices. Fold in the crabmeat. This can be made up to 1 day ahead (just keep chill and covered in the rerigerator)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously butter 2 mini muffin pans. Toss the breadcrumbs with 1/2 cup of Pecorino and 2 tablspoons of chopped chives. Drizzle 1/4 cup melted butter and mix until evenly moistened.

Press 1 rounded teaspoon of panko into the bottom of your prepared muffin tins. Top with 1 tablespoon of crab filling. Sprinkle with more panko until it is full covered. Continue until you have used all the bread crumbs and all the fillings

Bake the crab cakes until golden on top and slightly puffed, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then use a skewer or knife to gently loosen the cakes and remove from the pan. Arrange on baking sheets and let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 350 degree oven for 6 minutes before serving.

Arrange on serving tray and drizzle each crab cake with 1 teaspoon of aioli dressing. Top with two crisscrossed chives





Cilantro-Lime Aioli
This aioli is a brilliant addition to seafood, but can also be used in sandwiches or over grilled chicken

Ingredients

1 large egg yolk, room temperature
Juice of half a lime
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (not course grained)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch cilantro, washed, trimmed of the stem bottoms, and patted dry
Kosher salt


Directions

Add the egg yolk to the bowl of your food processor with the blade attachment. Whisk in lime juice and mustard.

In a separate bowl, combine the oils and then add the oil mixture in a slow steady trickle through the opening in your processor while the blade is whisking constantly. Continue until all the oil is incorporated and the mixture has emulsified (thickened to a creamy consistency).

Add the garlic cloves and cilantro in small bunches, allowing it all to be processed and incorporated. Season with kosher salt to taste.

Chill, covered, until ready to use.


"Let them eat (onion) brioche"


I never realized that whole Marie Antoinette thing was really about brioche. Everyone knows that she never really uttered that phrase, but did you know that it was mistranslated to begin with? It wasn't cake that the poor were dismissively told to eat, but brioche. Rich, buttery, golden brioche. When you think about it, it seems even meaner, doesn't it?

Brioche, after all, is the rich man's bread. Enriched with eggs, butter, and sugar; ingredients out of reach for most peasants. Ingredients that still make me wince as I add them to my cart today! The different variations of it are even defined as "poor, middle class, and rich" based on the quantities of butter included in the dough. It's really no wonder the girl lost her head...



My version really is a "rich" brioche that will all but make *you* lose your head! With the maximum butter content, plus a heaping serving of caramelized onions. I made this bread when I was sick and home from work and bored out of my head. Though I could not smell and could barely taste, I wanted to make something. We had frozen burgers in the fridge, mushrooms for sauteeing, stinky Stilton, but no bread.

So I made bread.

This recipe started out lovely and perfect on the blog, Bread Baby. I made few changes--really I just upped the amount of butter, used heavy cream instead of milk, and red onions since they were all I had. I split the risen dough into 8 4oz rolls instead of one big loaf and sprinkled sesame seeds on half of them.

It took barely any time or energy to prepare the dough (trust me, I had little of either). I popped them in the oven to bake just a few minutes after Eugene got home from the gym. By the time he got out of the shower, the aroma of caramelized onions and freshly baked bread had filled the apartment. It may have actually been the first thing my stuffy nose was able to detect that week.

The rolls were perfect with the burgers! The caramelized onion in the bread and the buttery richness really added a fantastic layer to them. The next morning, the kitchen still had that incredible aroma of the freshly baked rolls, and the temptation was too much to resist. We toasted the leftovers and filled them with smoked salmon, raw onions and cream cheese for a perfect little breakfast sandwich. Divided into even smaller portions (perhaps 2.5 oz), I expect these would also make great little dinner rolls.

Onion Brioche Hamburger Buns
Adapted from Bread Baby

**This recipe makes about 16 full-size hamburger buns**

4 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (105 - 115 degrees)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cup butter at room temp
4 eggs (beaten)
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
7 cups flour (plus more if necessary)
1 minced red onion
Semolina or cornmeal (for dusting)
1 egg yolk, beaten (for egg wash)
Sesame seeds (optional)

Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat slightly until it just bubbles, then turn off heat. Add the butter and let it melt with the cream as it cools.

In a medium skillet, melt 1 tbsp of butter and saute the minced onion until it is soft and smells rich and lightly caramelized. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Add the yeast, lukewarm water, and sugar into the base of your mixer and whisk briefly until it dissolves. Let sit for a couple minutes until the mixture starts to bubble a bit.

Add the warm cream, eggs, and flour to the mix and combine with the dough hook just for a minute.

Add the salt.

Now continue to knead with the dough hook for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary until the dough is silky and only slightly tacky (but not incredibly sticky). It should clear the sides, but still stick to the bottom a bit like a dough tornado.

Add the cooled and sautéed onions and knead into the dough well so they are evenly distributed.

Remove the dough and form into a large bowl. Place into a large bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap and a clean towel. Set in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for approximately 1 hour or until doubled.

Poke the dough gently to release any air. Reshape into a ball and let rise for another 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle two large baking sheets with a bit of semolina or cornmeal

After the second rise, divide the dough into equal 4 oz pieces (about 2/3 the size of what you want your final burger bun to look like). Use your hands to shape into little smooth balls by pulling all the dough down and pinching on the bottom. Place these on the semolina-dusted baking sheet, seam side down and press slightly to flatten a bit. Keep the rolls about 2” apart if you want them to bake separately or only about 1” apart if you would like the sides to touch while baking for that “pull apart” look that store buns usually have. Continue with all the remaining dough.

Take the final egg yolk and beat it gently with 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the egg wash over the buns (this will give them that bit of gleam once baked). (Save the reserve egg wash for a second brush after the final rise)

Cover lightly with plastic and let rise for about 35 minutes. Brush lightly again with the egg. If desired, sprinkle sesame seeds over the brushed buns. I like to alternate the sesame seeds so that half of them have them and half don’t. This way people can choose what kind they prefer. You can also get creative here and sprinkle them with other things like dried garlic, poppy or pumpkin seeds, etc.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and the bottom has a hollow sound to the touch.

Cardamom-Semolina & Lavender-Lemon Shortbread Cookies


A few months ago, one of my coworkers handed me a page marked in the new Food Network Magazine. I admit that I was a bit skeptical at first since I always assumed a lot of those recipes were a bit more Sandra Lee than Alton Brown (if you know what I mean...). It turns out, I was wrong! After reading the recipe for Cardamon-Semolina Shortbread Cookies, I realized that it seemed like something I would enjoy trying.

That night, after dinner and my shows were over, I wandered into the kitchen with the recipe and started mixing. The dough came together easily enough. It's a quickie slice-and-bake style that you pop in the fridge and can even keep in the freezer indefinitely. Never satisfied with leaving well enough alone, I decided to double the recipe and try out a second version with dried lavender and a lemon glaze on top.


Both cookies came out beautifully. The lavender ones were particularly pretty to look at with the glaze and little specks of purplish-lavender shining through. They tasted even better than they looked: buttery and with floral and spicy undertones. The semolina really transformed the texture of the cookies into something a bit more substantial than the usual crumbly shortbread. The irony of the whole thing is that I don't really even like shortbread, but I really enjoyed these. My coworkers gobbled up the batch I brought them, and Eugene and my dad took care of the rest.

Like I mentioned, the dough is the kind that you can prepare ahead of time and then just slice and bake as necessary. I still have a log of the cardamom-semolina in the fridge, just waiting for someone to drop by for tea.





Cardamom-Semolina Shortbread Cookies
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup semolina flour
2 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon orange-flower water

Directions

Sift together both flours and 2 teaspoons cardamom in a large bowl; set aside.

Using a mixer, beat the butter, 1 1/4 cups sugar and the salt in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the egg yolks; mix well. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Mix in the orange-flower water.

Divide the dough in half; place each half on a sheet of wax paper. Using the wax paper, roll each piece of dough into a 12-by-1 1/2-inch log. Wrap tightly and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom in a bowl. Slice one log of dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (keep the remaining log refrigerated). Dip the tops of dough rounds in the cardamom sugar and arrange on ungreased baking sheets; bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining log of dough.


Lavender-Lemon Semolina Shortbread Cookies
Replace cardamom with equal amount of crushed dried lavender. Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest. Proceed with recipe as stated above. Top with lemon glaze (recipe follows).

Lemon Glaze

Ingredients

1.5 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Directions

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth making sure there are no lumps. Use a spoon to drizzle about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cooled cookie.

Let harden for about two hours (uncovered at room temperature), then store in an air-tight container for up to one week.

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