Cooking for others, especially freinds, is one the the greatest joys of cooking. It combines the sense of accomplishment of the meal preparation with the warmth of sharing with others. Sur la Table’s mantra is that life happens around the table. No more so is that true than when friends and family make up the gatghering. Featured here is one of my favorite menus – crab imperial in Portobello mushroom caps, feta slaw, roasted corn on the cob, and garlic and pecorino toast.
One of the nice things about this dish, and the same is true of crab cakes, is that you can prepare the main course ahead of time and then store it in the refrigerator – for up to a day – and allow it to chill, which makes it easier to handle, and which also allows the flavors to get to know each other.
1 pound (450g) lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
1/2 cup (120ml) mayonnaise
2 tablespoons (30ml) Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons (10ml) fresh juice from 1 lemon, plus grated zest of half a lemon
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning (see Tips)
1 small shallot, finely minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (1 ounce; 30g) (see Tips)
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
In a medium bowl, stir together the crabmeat, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and zest, parsley, seasoning, and shallot until evenly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. At this point you can cover the mixture in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and store in the refigerator until ready to cook – up to a day.
When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Stir the bread crumbs with melted butter until evenly coated. Season with salt. Put servings of crab in the vessel for serving, and coat the top of the crab with the buttered bread crumbs evenly on top. Set on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the crab mixture is heated through and bread crumbs are golden, about 20 minutes.
The Portobello mushroom cap is simply prepared by just removing any stem from the cap before filling; the mushroom will be done just right cooking at the indicated time with the crab mixture in it. You can also use ramekins, scallop shells, or any other ovenproof vessel of choice.
Old Bay seasoning is a traditional ingredient for “Maryland style” crab cakes, but it’s not mandatory. If you have a favorite seafood spice blend, that will work as well. Or be creative and make up your own.
I’ve had good luck using Nabisco Simply Salt Rice Thins in lieu panko bread crumbs. The thins are remarkably crispy, so they crush very nicely. A bonus is that you can use them to make this recipe if you have a guest who is gluten-free, for whatever reason.