Have you ever made a meal that, rather than just appealing to your taste buds, also appealed to your sense of nostalgia?
Having been on a nostalgia trip ever since discovering Philly cheesesteaks in Ohio a few days ago, I wanted to create a meal that would evoke the Jersey Shore for me, not in any traditional sense, mind you – just in a way that would do it for me personally.
For me, the Jersey shore (and hell, the shore in general) is all about Old Bay. Crab cakes, potatoes, corn on the cob. We don’t have fresh crabs here in Ohio, and corn is out of season, so I had to make do with what was available. My solution? Mini crab cakes, spicy potato salad, and corn on the cob.
The original recipe for the crab cakes came from the advertising section of one of my cooking magazines (can’t remember which one) – however, I only used it as a base for the recipe, and changed a few ingredients and steps, so this is my version of the original. The original called for a ton of butter and oil, and was fried instead of baked. In the interest of my waistline (this meal was by no means healthy, but baking the crab cakes pulled them from artery-clogging to pretty darn healthy on their own), I eliminated the butter, oil, and the steps that called for frying the crab cakes before finishing them in the oven. To be honest with you, I really didn’t notice the difference.
Zesty Mini Crab Cakes
4 slices firm white bread, cut up
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. crab boil seasoning (Old Bay) 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper sauce
1 lb. cooked fresh jumbo lump crabmeat (I used canned), picked over
Vegetable cooking spray
Pulse bread in food processor to form fine crumbs.
Combine mayo, egg, celery, red bell pepper, shallot, parsley, lemon juice, seasoning, mustard, salt and red pepper sauce. Fold in crabmeat and 1 cup bread crumbs (I had to use more – don’t use too much, but make sure you use enough that the mixture will hold together to bake. Also, don’t stir – you don’t want to break up the nice big lumps of crab).
Pack 1 tablespoon with crab mixture and drop onto greased cookie sheet (I used a cookie scoop, which worked perfectly). Repeat – you should end up with about 35 crab cakes on 2 cookie sheets. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 10 minutes. For the last 5 minutes, switch the setting to broil, but keep the sheets in the center of the oven – this will allow the tops to brown.
As for the potato salad, it’s inspired (heck, it’s almost identical, if you ask me) by the Spicy “Shrimp Boil” Potato Salad at Banana Bean Cafe. As always, this is just a guideline – adjust accordingly to your own taste levels.
Copycat Spicy Potato Salad
3 lbs. small red waxy potatoes
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
1-2 tbsp. spicy brown mustard
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 1 cup mayo, to start (will definitely need more)
1/2 can Niblets corn
Salt, to taste
Old Bay seasoning, to taste
Boil potatoes with skins on until done, but still slightly firm. Allow to cool. Chop potatoes into large bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice. Add red pepper, onion, green onions, corn, mustard and mayo (add until you’ve acheived your desired consistency). Season with salt and Old Bay seasoning to taste – you’ll have to add quite a bit of Old Bay to get it the right level of spice – probably about 1-2 tbsp. Chill and serve.
As for the corn, it’s slim pickings right now – since summer is still many months off. If I have to have corn in winter, the steam in bag variety is quite good.
I’m really looking forward to eating seafood when I visit Jersey next month. While my attempt is yummy, it pales in comparison to the real thing. There’s nothing else like eating seafood right next to the ocean.