I guess it should be obvious that I’m a nut for new recipes. I’m always on the lookout and if I try something at a gathering that’s new to me and delicious, I don’t hesitate to ask for the recipe. By the same token, I often find recipes in magazines, newspapers, and online. The Internet is amazing for locating recipes. I routinely hear from a lot of people who like to cook, especially since starting the TADITK blog. You’d be amazed at how many adventurous souls there are who, like myself, cruise cyberspace in search of the perfect recipe for whatever they have a hankering. The problem is, there are not that many perfect recipes out there. We all have our individual tastes and preferences. What most of us wind up doing is tweaking.
Now a word of caution: Tweaking is riskier when baking than when cooking. Baking is a science. You have to measure the ingredients carefully, add them in the correct order, even mix them properly. Think about it. Cookies and cakes have the same basic ingredients. It’s how you put them together that makes the difference. When baking, the oven has to be at the right temperature and certain recipes even call for the proper humidity. At the bakery, (Latshaw’s Bakery in Spring City, PA, 1882-1974), the oven had steam vents for baking certain types of crusty bread, but forget trying to bake cakes under those conditions.
Cooking, on the other hand, is an art. A little of this, a little of that…you experiment with combinations of spices and ingredients. You develop a “feel” for cooking, and rarely...at least less frequently, do things go awry.
So, when I’m cooking, I usually start with several recipes and take what I think is the best from each. I almost always have a pad and pen nearby on which to write down what I’m using. And when I forget to write it down, I’m almost always sorry, because invariably I can’t remember what I’ve used by the time the dish is ready to be served.
This week’s recipe is adapted from one I found online at Epicurious.com. It really caught my eye. Corn fritters were one of Mom’s specialties when I was growing up, and a love of any type of seafood was cultivated in the restaurant that my grandmother operated adjacent to the bakery. (We continued to sell raw oysters in the bakery even after the restaurant closed.) My love of crab, however, was advanced by several trips to my college roommate’s family’s shore house in Ship Bottom, New Jersey. There I learned to crab. It was an awesome experience. I can’t think about it without my mouth watering. (Eating the crabs, that is, not catching them.)
Corn fritters are kind of a hybrid of cooking and baking.
Now there aren’t too many recipes for crab and sweet corn fritters on the web, so I was kind of locked in. I pretty much made the recipe as found. The part that threw me was the ½ cup of cornstarch. Whaa? I never heard of using that much cornstarch in anything, but I was a good (baker) boy and followed the published recipe to the letter. The results were fine. Alone, the fritters were pretty bland, but again, you have to follow the complete recipe and serve them with sour cream and the sweet chili sauce. (Don’t forget the splash of fresh lime juice, too.) When I make these again, I’m going to lose the cornstarch and double the flour, and then add two teaspoons of baking powder. That’s just how I “feel” about it!
CRAB & SWEET CORN FRITTERS
(click on any image to enlarge it)
8 ounces of cooked crabmeat (I used claw meat)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
2/3 cup cold water
2 eggs, beaten
2 ears of sweet corn, cooked and kernels cut off
Sweet chili sauce (available in the Asian section of larger grocery stores)
Place the crab in a medium-sized bowl and break up any clumps or large pieces.
Add the green onions, chili powder, cilantro (parsley can be substituted), salt, and pepper. Toss lightly and set aside.
Next, cook the sweet corn. If you have a microwave, you don’t have to prepare a large vat of boiling water. Shuck the husk off of the ear of corn and remove as much of the tassel a possible.
Rinse under cold water and wrap each ear in a sheet of waxed paper, twisting the ends closed. Microwave both ears on high for about 5 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off of each ear into a shallow dish. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour and cornstarch, or flour (1 cup) and baking powder (2 teaspoons), if you want to skip right to my proposed “second attempt.” Add 2/3 cup cold water and the eggs and whisk until smooth. The mixture should have the consistency of heavy cream.
Stir in the crab mixture and the sweet corn kernels.
The original recipe called for cooking the fritters on a griddle over your outdoor grill. That was just a little to risky for me. I used my electric frying pan set to 350°. Lightly grease the cooking surface with about a Tablespoon of oil. You can distribute the oil with a spatula or a paper towel.
Spoon batter onto griddle and cook for 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. After flipping, you may want to lightly press down on the fritter in order to make good fritter to griddle contact. (I’ll bet those words have never been put together before!) This recipe made twelve 3” fritters.
As I said before, eating the plain fritters will disappoint you as they’ll be bland. However, some sour cream (or crème fraiche), some sweet chili sauce, and a spritz from a wedge of lime will take them over the top. You can garnish with sprigs of cilantro, too. Leftover fritters reheated fairly well in the microwave.
“NORMAL” CRAB CAKES
There are about as many recipes for crab cakes as Carter has liver pills, (or however that saying goes). Here’s mine. Simple…easy…and delicious. I favor crab cakes with more crab and less filler. This recipe calls for just enough panko or bread crumbs and eggs to hold the crab together, (although one egg would have probably been enough). If you bake or broil your crab cakes, you can get away with less ingredients that serve as a binder.
Ingredients (makes 6 crab cakes):
8 oz. cooked crabmeat
½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs)
1 or 2 eggs, slightly beaten
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and toss until well blended. Spoon mixture onto surface of lightly greased cooking surface. If necessary, form into circular cakes with a spatula. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Serve with cocktail sauce.