Leave it to West Coast guide to the good life Sunset Magazine to throw together a shellfish dish that sounds so delicious, we’ll be ditching crab cakes for a while.
Passionate and opinionated, Jeff Jackson of The Lodge at Torrey Pines insists upon American-raised crayfish for this beautiful dish, and I’m happy to oblige. It will be more difficult to find than the less desirable Chinese crayfish, but persist. According to my local fishmonger, rock crab may be substituted for crayfish in a pinch, but it will not have the signature freshwater mystique. Serve with a light salad of baby greens, tossed with a citrusy vinaigrette.
- 1 pound American crayfish tail meat
- 1 garlic clove, minced or pushed through a press
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 3 drops worcestershire sauce
- 3 drops hot sauce, such as Tabasco
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- About 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2/3 cup dry or medium-dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced roasted red bell pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
- 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 6 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, cut into 6 equal pieces
- 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh chives
- 1/2 teaspoon each fine sea salt and pepper
For the crayfish cakes
Make the cakes: Gather the crayfish with clean hands and squeeze firmly to rid it of as much excess moisture as possible. In a medium bowl, combine the crayfish with all the remaining ingredients for the cakes, except the panko and oil. Blend together with a fork until thoroughly combined.
Blend in 1/2 cup of the panko, and test to see whether you can form a patty that will hold together; add additional panko as needed until a patty will hold its shape.
With clean hands, form 8 patties, each about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Place on a plate and chill at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.
Start the Tabasco butter: In a small saucepan, combine the wine, vinegar, shallot, bell pepper, hot sauce, and Old Bay; place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 12 minutes; the mixture should be juicy, not wet. Watch carefully to be sure the liquid does not completely evaporate. Set aside at the back of the stove, covered, while you cook the cakes, up to 1 hour if desired.
Cook the cakes: In a large nonstick skillet, warm half the oil over medium-low heat. When it is hot, gently slide half the cakes into the pan.
Cook the bottom sides until golden brown, 5 minutes. Turn and brown on the other sides, 4 minutes more. Keep the first batch warm in a low (200°) oven. Repeat to make the second batch.
Finish the butter: Reheat the wine mixture over very low heat, just until steaming. Remove from the heat and add all the butter at once, whisking the sauce constantly until the butter emulsifies and makes a creamy sauce. (If the residual heat of the wine mixture is not enough to soften all the pieces of butter, you can return the pan very briefly to low heat to encourage complete emulsification — if the sauce gets too hot at this point, the butter will melt and separate.) Add the chives, salt, and pepper, and swirl the pan. Cover the pan, and serve the sauce and the cakes within 5 minutes.