I’m not a traditionalist when it comes to crab cakes. Some feel the best are full of crab enhanced with a flavorful bread-crumb mixture. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I came to appreciate crab cakes when I had an opportunity to try some at a restaurant in Portland, Oregon back in the mid-1990s. Wildwood Restaurant & Bar does a very interesting take on the crab cake using shaved potatoes formed into a nest that encrusts the crab meat mixture. The recipe below is from their cookbook.
As you can tell this is not a quick after work recipe, so make sure you set some time aside. It is a bit complex but definitely worth the effort. Although, you can make ahead the crab mixture and refrigerate overnight and then put it all together after work for gourmet meal even on a work day.
Wildwood Crab Cakes
1 tbl. Unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated asiago or pecorino cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
2 tbl. Dijon mustard
2 tbl. Minced green bell pepper
2 tbl. Fresh chopped parsley, Italian flat-leaf preferred
1 tsp. Salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 pound fresh lump Dungeness or other crabmeat
4 russet potatoes, peeled, cut into strings on a Japanese turning slicer or box grater and soaked in water until ready to use (see NOTE)
1/2 cup flour
4 to 5 tbl. Canola oil
To form the crab cakes: In a small pan or skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes or until translucent. In a large bowl, combine the shallots, bread crumbs, cheese, lemon juice, mayo, egg, mustard, bell pepper, parsley, salt and cayenne pepper. Gently mix the crabmeat into the mixture. Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions and form into balls. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and blanch the potato strings for 2 minutes. Transfer to an ice-water bath; set aside.
To cook crab cakes: In a shallow bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs until blended. Put the flour and potato strings in 2 separate bowls. Remove the crab balls from the refrigerator. Flatten each ball to make a 3/4 inch thick cake. Dip each crab cake into the flour, then the eggs. Pack a layer of the potato strings around each cake.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Cook the crab cakes, turning once, until golden brown on each side, about 6 minutes total, adding more oil as needed to prevent sticking.
NOTE: If using a box grater to prepare the potatoes, don’t blanch the potatoes, as they are likely to fall apart.