The boys wanted turkey for Christmas Eve, so on December 24, 2000, I cooked a traditional turkey dinner. I usually barbecued our turkey to free up oven space, but that year I decided to try smoking it. I purchased a Brinkman smoker and a 22-lb. bird to put in it.
I awoke at the crack of dawn to fire up the smoker allowing 10 hours for the turkey to cook. It was 28 degrees that day but I ventured outside every hour to add briquettes and wood chips.
Besides turkey and the customary side dishes, I was inspired by a Martha Stewart magazine recipe to make crab cakes which I’d never attempted before.
At 5 p.m. the turkey was dark brown and the skin was crispy. I carried it into the kitchen to let it “rest” while I fried the crab cakes, mashed the potatoes and made gravy.
Family and guests were seated at the table when I ceremoniously sliced into a turkey so raw inside that bright red blood flowed onto the cutting board.
Crab cakes were suddenly elevated to main course status! Crab cakes and mashed potatoes. Crab cakes and yams. Crab cakes and stuffing. My sons teased, “Mom, are we having crab cakes with pumpkin pie and whipped cream?”
We didn’t know it then, but that would be our last Christmas together in our Grants Pass home. In May I moved to the coast to begin my career here. Every Christmas Eve dinner since has included crab cakes—my family wouldn’t have it any other way.
I took what I liked from several recipes to come up with my favorite. We don’t wait for a holiday to enjoy crab cakes. When Rick and I have crab we eat legs for dinner and save the “body” for crab cakes the following night.
This recipe makes four cakes, enough for two people.
Clean the crab body. A 2-lb. crab will yield about 6 oz. of meat when you just use the body (no legs).
Flake the crabmeat with a fork and toss with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped green onion, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 slightly beaten egg, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 1/2 cup of corn meal and mix well.
Take a cup of panko (Japanese bread crumbs) and spread on a plate. Divide crab cake mixture in quarters and roll each quarter in the panko like you’re making meatballs. After coating the crab mixture, flatten the ball to make a cake about 3 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick and coat thoroughly with panko. Repeat until you have four cakes. Put them in the refrigerator to firm up while you make the sauce. Mix 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and sweet chili sauce (we use Trader Joe’s sweet chili sauce but there are other brands available in local stores). Two tablespoons will make a tangy sauce that’s a light coral color. Use more or less according to your taste.
I fry the cakes on a non-stick griddle coated with canola oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes per side, turning only once. One recipe says internal temperature of the crab should be 155 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. Serve with sauce and enjoy!
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