For Auld Lang Syne: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and new year’s words await another voice.” – T.S. Eliot

As a self-professed food magazine junkie, it is unquestionably one of my favorite pleasures and pastimes, even though technically, it’s really part of my work and research. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) I’ll spend hours perusing the publication, leafing through, ripping out pages that sparked some creative riff on a recipe, or something that inspired a total reinterpretation of a classic. (Hey! What if I deconstructed this but used that instead?)

Being a freelancer for so many years and knowing how the publishing industry works (at least three months and up to 6 months – maybe even a year or so in advance), I have to say it always bothered me and greatly challenged me, too, to work so far ahead. Not only is there issue with seasonal ingredient availability, but honestly, it’s just plain hard to get excited about prepping and shooting a turkey in the sweltering heat of July or dyeing Easter eggs in a mid-winter slump. And now, with the clock tick-tocking to 2013, the January issues have already hit the newsstands with their shaming headlines and promises that, yes, This Is Your Year for Body, Mind and Soul Renewal! I want to say, “People! It’s still Decadent December! Let us at least enjoy it until the ball drops!” There’s plenty of time to feel lousy about ourselves later. I mean, seriously, that’s the solitary purpose of January anyway, isn’t it? Aren’t self-loathing, recrimination and staring into the abyss prerequisites for that most depressing month? (Can you tell I’m not its biggest fan?)

They’re two-faced those publishers…all of them! Think about it! For the last several months, the journals were pleading (!), imploring (!), begging (!) us all to be hedonists and to celebrate at office parties, cookie swaps and open houses. Now, we’re bombarded with the likes of “Fresh Start!” “The One Cleanse You’ll Actually Enjoy!” “4 steps to Aha! How to Figure Out Exactly What You Want” Exclamation point. Fine, yes – of course starting fresh with a clean slate is indeed a good thing, but why can’t they hold off a bit instead of ruining the holidays with their guilting buzz kill and alarming quips? Note: the one-liner exception was “Set up the Ultimate Bloody Mary Bar.” Hey, now, you’re talking! What’s a New Year’s Day brunch without one?

And that really got me thinking about our society and how we all just seem to miss what’s happening in front of us. We’re always running. Rushing, moving ahead. Worrying about the next, big thing. As Americans, we have to be thoroughly convinced that it’s okay to chill out. We even design our advertising slogans around the fact that we feel we have to earn a little down time. Heck, yes, we do deserve a break today! Dang skippy we do!

But I have an idea. What if we, in 2013, just slowed down a little. Enjoyed more. Savored more. You know, like actually eat at the table (with candles! And linen napkins!) and not in front of the television? Live in the moment? Well, that’s my goal for the New Year. Time already goes by way too fast – we certainly don’t need to give it a hand. And, yes, I’ll admit that I’ll read those January rags advising what to do “When Bad Muffin Top Happens to Good Women.” But not to worry, my friends. They’ll all be back with enticing covers of lacey pink hearts and boxes of chocolates and carb-laden comfort foods soon enough. Thank goodness.

Ring in the New Year with these elegant little nibbles. They’re perfect bite-sized morsels for scrumptious finger food at your next cocktail party. Or, make them bigger for a delicious dinner or tuck them in a sandwich for a terrific lunch. Any way you serve them, they are fabulous with the spicy rémoulade sauce. Here’s to a fabulous and prosperous 2013! Cheers!

Crab Cake Bites with Spicy Rémoulade

Author: Cheryl Beverage Barnes
Recipe type: Crab Cakes, Fish and Seafood, Appetizers
Serves: Makes 24 to 26 mini crab cakes
Crab Cake Bites with Spicy Rémoulade
Crab Cake Bites with Spicy Rémoulade

Ingredients

  • For the rémoulade:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons minced gherkins
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • hot sauce, to taste
  • For the cakes:
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • ¼ cup diced celery
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup jarred pimento, drained and chopped
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • hot sauce, to taste
  • ½ pound lump crab, drained and picked through
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • For frying:
  • unsalted butter for frying and extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients through the mustard for the rémoulade sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. In a sauté pan, heat the butter and the olive oil over medium-low. Add the onion, celery and green onion. Season with some salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, stir in the pimento and set aside to cool to room temperature. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, Old Bay and a few dashes of hot sauce. In another bowl, add the crab, egg, breadcrumbs and the cooked mixture. Stir to combine. Gently fold in the mayonnaise mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Shape into bite-sized cakes.
  3. When ready to fry, heat 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium. Working in small batches, add 4 or 5 crab cakes and fry until nicely browned, about 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Begin each new batch with fresh butter and oil, wiping out the pan each time. Keep the cooked crab cakes in a 250 degree oven for up to 30 minutes.

Notes

…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:

Planning: The crab cakes can be shaped then refrigerated overnight, covered with plastic. Fry them just before serving!

Product Purity: I use gherkins and chop them myself since most pickle relish contains high fructose corn syrup. Opt for organic ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, free of high fructose corn syrup. Check the label on your panko, Japanese breadcrumbs, for hydrogenated oils. Progresso is my choice.

Presentation: You can find white chef tasting spoons at many kitchen specialty stores and Asian markets. Place a crab cake bite in the spoon, dot some rémoulade sauce on top and garnish with a tiny sprig of dill.

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