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Mini Crab Cakes

May 15, 2011

Crab cakes. Everyone loves crab cakes, right? Well, me included. But it’s one of those dishes that’s rarely done right. This one’s too spicy. That one doesn’t have enough crab. And that one’s too greasy. But these mini crab cakes? These are just right. Light, crispy, and filled with fresh, lump crab meat. You could eat a hundred of them. I’m not kidding.

I stumbled upon this recipe a couple weeks ago while flipping through the latest issue of Bon Appétit—the Italy issue, which (as a side note) is fabulous, and was of particular interest to me because we’re headed to Italy for two weeks this summer (and, yes, I do plan to eat and drink my way through Italy). Pizza, pasta, wine, seafood… oh my! But I digress. Listed at the very back of the magazine were menu ideas for Mother’s Day brunch. And here I was, in need of menu ideas for a Mother’s Day supper. Among the menu ideas listed—mini crab cakes. Mini crab cakes? Delicious and adorable? Yes, please.

The recipe proved incredibly easy to make. And ingenious: you bake the crab cakes in a mini muffin pan. Baking the crab cakes saves you from having to fry them in butter and/or oil, which can make them heavy and greasy. Plus, you finally get to use that mini muffin pan. I bought mine a couple of years ago, thinking (excitedly): now I can make mini muffins, and mini frittatas, and mini quiches, all the time! Did I ever use the mini muffin pan? Not once. But now, thanks to this recipe, my mini muffin pan feels loved. And it’s going to get a lot of use in the future, because these mini crab cakes are downright delectable.

Needless to say, these mini crab cakes were a huge hit at my Mother’s Day supper. They were devoured within mere minutes of placing them on a platter. Plus, nothing says “I love you” and “thanks” like miniature appetizers. Well, maybe not. But they sure were delicious.


Adapted (barely) from Bon Appétit

Bon Appétit suggests making these crab cakes with their blender hollandaise, which looks delicious. But I opted to serve mine with a simple lemon-chive aioli instead, which was also quite tasty. It would be fun to experiment with different dipping sauces and aiolis—these crab cakes would pair well with any number of flavors (sweet, spicy, herbaceous). Yum.

For the mini crab cakes:

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I used reduced-fat)
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream (I used reduced-fat)
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 oz. lump crab meat
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, divided (plus more for garnish)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
cayenne pepper
salt & pepper

For the lemon-chive aioli:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
splash of sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
salt & pepper

Special equipment: mini muffin pan

Place the cream cheese in a large bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer (I’m sure you could also use a stand mixer—I just don’t have one), and beat until smooth. Next, add in a 1/4 grated parmesan and the egg, and beat until incorporated and smooth. Beat in the sour cream, citrus zest, salt and pepper (to taste), and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Fold in the crab meat and 1/2 of the chopped chives (about 2 tablespoons). If you’re not going to make the crab cakes right away (the crab mixture can be made one day in advance), cover and chill in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs, a 1/2 cup grated parmesan, the remaining chives (about 2 tablespoons, reserving a little for garnish), the melted butter, a couple pinches of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Mix together with a fork to combine, until the breadcrumbs are coated with the butter.

Lightly spritz the muffin pan with olive oil. Scoop one tablespoon of the panko mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup (this will form the crust). Top with one heaping tablespoon of the crab mixture, and then with another tablespoon of the panko mixture. There should be enough panko and crab mixture to fill two mini muffin pans (or, like me, one mini muffin pan twice). Bake the crab cakes for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, make the lemon-chive aioli by simply stirring all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Once the crab cakes are a nice golden brown color, remove them from oven, and let cool for a couple minutes before removing from the pan. To remove from the pan, run a butter knife around the edges of each crab cake, and gently pop it out.

Arrange the mini crab cakes on a platter, and top with the remaining chives for garnish. Serve along with the lemon-chive aioli. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

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