Crab Cakes are one of those dishes that are just about perfect just about any time of year. They’re a snap to make and you can have them cooked and kept warming in the warming drawer until you’re ready to serve your guests. This wonderful recipe uses a lot of crab and not a lot of bread which is key to a great crab cake. This particular take caught our eye because it seemed like just the right thing to serve for one of our lunches around the pool. Its pedigree is very reassuring. There’s not much that Tyler Florence doesn’t do perfectly and this is but one example. It’s from his late, lamented column in House Beautiful, “Tyler’s Kitchen”. Tyler combines three summer favorites that are at their peak right now. There’s fresh basil in the dressing. And there are 3 varieties of tomatoes and sweet corn. The corn is gorgeous cooked a way I’d never tried before and it was a revelation all by itself.
Tyler Florence took over for Ina Garten when House Beautiful switched editors. And it’s since changed hands again and now features Gabriel Hamilton of “Prune” fame. The three cooks share a lot in common. They breach no nonsense in the kitchen. And they make your life a lot easier by focusing on fresh and simple preparations. This recipe is no exception. Because we were 8 for lunch, I upped Tyler’s original proportions. Because the crab cakes themselves are so full of crab, they require a little TLC in the sautéing to make sure they stay together. Chilling them first helps a lot in this regard. And egg white and mayonnaise bind them together to a degree. But unlike the ‘hockey puck” crab cakes I’ve encountered in the past, these are a bit more delicate so treat them accordingingly and they’ll reward you with perfection. The recipe comes in five parts: First preheat the oven to roast the corn. Then make the cakes and refrigerate them. Move on to the Basil Dressing which is a snap to puree in the blender. Then make the marinade/dressing for the corn and tomatoes and toss the vegetables in very close to serving time to keep the tomato from any trace of mushiness. Finally, sauté the cakes and keep them warm in a warming drawer on in the oven you used for the corn and then turned off.
By all means, plate this dish. It’s not hard to do and the presentation will beat anything your guests can do on a buffet line. We served the dish with some crusty French bread and Rose. Salut! Here’s the recipe adapted for 8 people serving each 2 crab cakes.
Recipe for Crab Cakes with Buttermilk-Basil Dressing and Marinated Tomatoes and Corn
For the Crab Cakes:
2 pounds jumbo lump crabmeat, picked and cleaned
2 egg whites, lightly beaten (until foamy, not stiff)
2 cups fresh white bread crumbs
3 tablespoons Olive Oil mayonnaise
1 Lemon, juiced
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the Buttermilk-Basil Dressing:
¾ cup Buttermilk
¾ cup Olive Oil Mayonnaise
¾ cup Sour Cream
½ cup Fresh Basil Leaves
3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A few drops on Fresh Lemon juice
Sea salt to taste
For the Marinated Tomatoes and Corn:
2 vine-ripened tomatoes cut into 8 wedges apiece
1 cup Grape Tomatoes, halved
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1 ½ tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning
3 tbsp. Fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 fat tablespoon tiny, fresh basil leaves
Sea Salt and Freshly-Cracked Black Pepper to taste
1. Gently mix the cleaned crabmeat, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, egg whites and lemon juice until just blended. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into 16 crab cakes about 2 ½ inches across and ¾ inches thick. Place them on a plate or sheet pan and cover them loosely, putting them in the refrigerator to chill.
Roast the unshucked corn in a 350 degree over for 30 minutes, until
the husks are brown and parchment-like. The corn steams in its own jacket creating a wonderful naturally sweet flavor. Once the ears are cool enough to handle, husk the corn. You won’t believe how easily and cleanly the silk comes off the corn! I sure didn’t! Then use a sharp knife to slice the kernels from the cob. Put the kernels into a mixing bowl.
Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in the blender and puree on high speed until smooth. Salt to your taste. The resulting flavor will remind you of Ranch Dressing. You’ll want to serve this at room temperature so pull it out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.
4. Make the Marinade for the Tomatoes and Corn. Put the Old Bay, lemon juice, olive oil, tiny basil leaves, sea salt and pepper into a mixing bowl. Very shortly before plating, toss the tomatoes in the marinade.
Take the crab cakes out of the refrigerator. Heat 3 tbsp. of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the crab cakes, in batches, cooking each for about 4 minutes a size. Take care in turning the cakes over. Place the finished crab cakes on a parchment paper lined sheet pan and place in warming oven or cooled oven used for roasting the corn.
To assemble the plates, spoon some of the Buttermilk Basil Dressing on each plate. Place two crab cakes in the dressing, sprinkle the tomato and corn mixture over the top and serve immediately.