Louisiana Crab Cakes with Celeriac Remoulade

I’ve really fallen for the food of Louisiana since making a po’ boy last week. The spice mix sent to me by @Laissezchef is excellent and in order to find a way of getting more of it into my hungry, hungry face, I decided to make me some crab cakes, Southern style.

Although I enjoy the odd British, potato bolstered fish cake, I’ve never really been mad keen. Often they’re more potato than fish, making them bland and heavy. American fish (or in this case, crab) cakes, rarely use any such filler, and if they do, its usually breadcrumbs, which give a much lighter result. The differences don’t stop there however, and there’s one ingredient that’s always put me off: mayonnaise. Mayonnaise INSIDE the fish cake. There’s just something about the idea of it that’s always made me feel slightly nauseous but I decided to bite the bullet and, as the Americans would say, suck it up.

It turns out that the mayo is magic, binding with real silkiness – hardly surprising since it is essentially a load of oil. This probably should bother me, but since these are hardly healthy by the time they’ve been fried anyway I made the decision to get over it.

I used a mixture of white and brown meat (the latter adding so much flavour), so that the end result was incredibly, well, crabby. Rich and decadent, with the sweetness of the mellowed red pepper playing off the crab, and a punchy background of herbs and spring onion, which, to my huge relief, didn’t overwhelm. Fried in a mixture of polenta and a little more of that Louisiana spice, the coating turned out really crunchy – a lovely contrast to the soft innards.

To go with, a celeriac remoulade. I just love celeriac raw, never more so than bound with a good, home-made mayo. To tart it up, chopped pickled gherkins, herbs, a good whack of mustard and a generous souring with lemon juice plus my new favourite ingredient, juice from the pickle jar.

As always when faced with the leftovers, my thoughts turned to sandwiches. First came the obvious, crab cake, remoulade and hot sauce; second came a deluxe fish finger number (above). Hubba hubba.

Louisiana Crab Cakes with Celeriac Remoulade (makes 12, easily halved)

450g cooked white and brown crab meat (fresh crab is pricey, so if you want to make these more affordable, tinned crab white meat would be an option)
5 spring onions, very finely chopped (white and green parts)
1 red pepper, very finely chopped
2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons chives, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, very finely chopped (optional)
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I made my own, recipe here)
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon New Orleans spice mix (e-mail to purchase)

Polenta plus a little more spice mix, for coating
Oil, for frying

Soften the red pepper and celery very gently for about 15 minutes until lovely and soft but not coloured. Set aside and allow to cool.

Pick through the crab meat to check for any pieces of shell, then place in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients, including the softened veg (when cool), plus some salt and pepper. Mix well and taste for seasoning.

Form into cakes and set aside to chill in the fridge for an hour.

After this time, cover a plate with polenta, then add another half tablespoon of spice and mix it together. Coat each crab cake by turning it over in the mixture and dusting off any excess.

Heat about 2cm vegetable, groundnut or other frying oil in a heavy based frying pan and cook the cakes for a few minutes each side until golden and crisp. Cook them in batches of 3 or 4, so as not to crowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil. Drain on kitchen paper then keep warm in a low oven while you cook the remaining cakes.

Celeriac Remoulade

1/2 small celeriac, peeled
1 quantity 2 egg yolk mayo (recipe here)
3 sweet pickled gherkins, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon chives, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet American mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
A little juice from the pickle jar
Salt

Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl. To deal with the celeriac, peel it, then cut it into fine matchsticks. I have a nifty peeler which makes lovely little strands out of vegetables. I realise most of you lot probably don’t own one of these, so I’m sorry but you’ll have to slog it out with the knife. Don’t be tempted to grate the celeriac unless you have a really good, coarse grater, because it will go all claggy and horrible when mixed with the mayo; it needs to retain bite. So, once you have your strands, toss immediately in the lemon juice to prevent discolouration.

Mix in all the other ingredients, adjusting the seasoning as you go; you may want more hot sauce, more mustard, more salt etc.


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