Crab cakes are not native to New Orleans, but you
would never know that to look at menus or recent local
cookbooks. They moved in from Maryland in the early 1990s,
replacing the good old stuffed crab, and igniting the issue that
rages wherever crab cakes are found: Which restaurant makes the
best? Interestingly, every single place that makes them at all
claims its are self-evidently superior.
Most people will say that a great crab cake will contain as high
a percentage of jumbo lump crabmeat as possible while still
sticking together as a cake. But clearly there should be other
things in there, too. I like green onions, parsley, a little
garlic, and a little red bell pepper. I use béchamel to hold the
crabmeat together, and a light dusting with bread crumbs so the
things can be browned. Crab cakes should fall apart at the touch
of a fork, not hold together like a hamburger.
1 stick butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup warm milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
2 lbs. lump crabmeat
1/3 finely-chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
2 tsp. Creole seasoning
2 oz. clarified butter
Heat the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Add the salt,
white pepper, and flour and make a blond roux. Whisk in the milk
until the blend has the texture of runny mashed potatoes. Cool
to room temperature. (You have just made a béchamel.)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. Creole mustard
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
2. Pick crabmeat of any
shells, trying to keep the lumps as whole as possible. Combine
it in a large bowl with bell pepper, green onion, and tarragon.
Add three-fourths of a cup of the cooled béchamel. Mix
everything well with your fingers, being careful not to break
3. Season the bread
crumbs with Creole seasoning, and spread them on a plate. Using
an ice cream scoop, scoop up balls of the crabmeat mixture.
Gently form them into cakes about three-fourths of an inch
thick. Press them gently onto the bread crumbs on each side, and
shake off the excess crumbs.
4. Heat the clarified
butter in a skillet. Sauté crab cakes until golden brown on the
outside and heated all the way through. (The way to test this is
to push the tines of a kitchen fork into the center of the cake,
then touch the fork to your lips. That will tell you whether the
heat has penetrated all the way through.)
5. Mix all ingredients
for the white remoulade and serve with the crab cakes.
Makes twelve large crab cakes.
For an easy way to make crab cakes, try Zatarain's New
Orleans Style Cab Cake mix. Just click on the picture.
© 2007 Tom Fitzmorris. All rights reserved.
Beignets are a distinctive part of the
New Orleans breakfast, although they're enjoyed even
more as a late-night snack. Our beignet is a square of
straightforward dough fried until it puffs up and
becomes golden brown. It's covered with powdered sugar,
placed on a plate with two more if its kind, and sent to
the table or counter, where the person who ordered it is
already sipping café au lait.
The best beignets have two qualities that rarely come
together. First, they're doughy enough that there's more
than just air inside. Second, they're not so heavy that
they sink to the bottom of the fryer.
The beignets in the French Market are made with a yeast
dough, which is fine for a large operation but
unnecessarily involved for home use. I prefer something
similar to a biscuit dough.
2 cups self-rising flour
3 Tbs. Crisco
1 Tbs. sugar
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Combine the flour and Crisco in a bowl with a wire whisk
until it resembled coarse cornmeal, with perhaps a few
lumps here and there.
2. Warm 3/4 cup
of water in the microwave oven until barely warm to
touch. Dissolve the sugar in it.
3. Whisk the
flour into the water to combine completely, using a
kitchen fork to blend. Work the dough as little as
4. Turn the dough
out on a clean counter and dust with a little flour.
Roll it ought to a uniform thickness of about a
quarter-inch. Cut into rectangles about two inches by
four inches. Allow these to sit for a couple of minutes
while you heat the oil.
5. Pour an inch
of oil into a skillet and heat to about 325 degrees.
When the beignet dough squares have softened and puffed
up a little, drop four to six at a time into the hot oil
and fry until light brown. Turn once and fry the other
side. Drain on paper towels. It's all right to fry the
misshapen dough pieces from the edge of the dough sheet.
6. Dust with
powdered sugar and serve hot.
Makes 12-15 beignets.
© 2007 Tom
Fitzmorris. All rights reserved.
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