As the weather gets warmer, I cook lighter. And in The Husband's taxonomy of food, crabcakes are relatively light. So I thought I'd employ of couple of seasonal stars — peas and radishes — to put a spring spin on them.
I blithely went shopping for fresh crabmeat at my local market, but found to my horror that it's almost unaffordably pricey — and that pasteurized refrigerated crabmeat isn't much cheaper. In search of an ingredient with which to stretch the crab (I thought of it as Crab Helper), I settled on boiled shrimp, which are readily available, but not astronomically expensive. Happily, the crab and the shrimp played very nicely together.
As this also is the season for fresh peas, I added some of them to the crab/shrimp mix. Their natural sweetness chimes in well with the shellfish, and they add a little crunchy pop to the texture of the cakes.
Flavour and texture aside, I used to discount the nutritional value of peas, until I finally scrutinized the data and discovered that the little fellers are packed with protein, fiber and micronutrients. If you find fresh peas at the farmer's market, by all means scoop them up. But keep in mind that the sugar in fresh peas starts turning to starch the minute they're harvested, so be sure to bring them home, shell them and boil them right away.
And if your only option is frozen peas, don't despair. Those guys are picked at the height of their ripeness and blanched immediately in water, which sets their flavour and texture.
We bind up the cakes with eggs, mayonnaise and panko breadcrumbs, then season them with tarragon, which always teams up nicely with both shellfish and peas. If you're not a fan of tarragon, which is unpleasantly reminiscent of licorice to some folks, substitute some dill, chives or parsley. The panko does double duty, thickening the interior of the cakes and adding crunch to their crust. And as long as you brown the cakes in a nonstick or stick-resistant skillet, you won't have to use much oil.
The cakes are topped off with a peppery cream flavoured by both horseradish and red radishes. Kissing cousins from the same family — brassicaceae — the radishes add a little kick to the otherwise bland shellfish. The sour cream is a moist and tangy complement to the panko crust. The Husband was very happy with my springtime rendition of one of his faves!
SPRING CRAB AND SHRIMP CAKES WITH DOUBLE RADISH SAUCE
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1/2 pound peeled and deveined cooked shrimp
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup cooked English peas or thawed frozen peas
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1 2/3 cups panko breadcrumbs, divided
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, or to taste
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for any shells
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light sour cream
1 cup coarsely shredded red radishes
1 tablespoon bottled horseradish (do not drain)
Heat the oven to 300 F.
In a food processor, pulse the shrimp until very finely chopped, but not reduced to a paste. Transfer the chopped shrimp to a medium bowl and add the egg and egg yolk, peas, scallions, 2/3 cup of the panko, the mayonnaise, tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Stir well, then gently fold in the crabmeat. Divide the mixture into 8 portions, shaping each into a patty. Coat the patties with the remaining panko.
In a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Reduce the heat to medium, then add 4 of the patties and cook until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the patties to a rimmed baking sheet and place them in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining patties, using the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the sour cream, radishes and horseradish. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, arrange 2 patties per plate and top with the radish sauce.
Nutrition information per serving: 450 calories; 170 calories from fat (38 per cent of total calories); 19 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 250 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 32 g protein; 900 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."