I’m all about creativity… It’s one of the most enjoyable things about being in a kitchen. But once in a while you come across a REALLY good idea. That is when I suggest throwing “creativity” aside and introducing the concept of theft… steal the idea.
I recently had one of those moments. Somewhere in the middle of a 13 hour day at Brennan’s of Houston. I was in the walk in, stuffing ring molds full of crab cake mix. I remembered eating these same crab cakes a few months before… delicious. Brennan’s serves their crab cakes atop a corn and leek cream with a simple salad of carrot and pea shoots dressed in cane vinegar. What I think separates Brennan’s crab cake is that their mix (easily 85% crab, very little filler and other ingredients) is packed into ring molds, seared on both sides, then warmed through in the oven. This results in a final product that highlights the crab and is nowhere near greasy or fried.
So as I stand there in the walk in stuffing some untold dozens of these ring molded crab cakes, it occurs to me that this technique could potentially be the host for a wide variety of flavors. And I started imagining a Thai version of this Brennan’s signature dish. Replace the corn and leek cream with a coconut curry sauce, introduce some Asian flavors into the crab mix, and top with an Asian style slaw… sounded good to me! So after several days recovery from my first catering gig, I decided to execute this idea. Here’s how it turned out.
As predicted, this flavor combo was incredible. Hot, sweet, acidic, bright, rich… I don’t think it’s any better (or worse) than the crab cakes at Brennan’s, just different. This is one of those things that you learn working in other people’s kitchens… to take their ideas, adjust them to your own. Here’s the recipe so you can try these Brennan’s style crab cakes with Thai Red Curry at home.
Makes about two servings (Four Crab Cakes):
Preheat oven to 375F.
Red Curry Sauce
.1g Fennel Seed
.2g Cumin Seed
.3g Brown Mustard Seed
.3g Vietnamese Cinnamon
.7g Yellow Mustard Seed
.9g Szechuan Pepper Corn
.5g Star Anise
.6g Kosher Salt
1 tblspn Tomato Paste
2 Cups Shrimp Shells
1 Ghost Pepper
2 Stalks Lemon Grass, bruised
1 Clove Garlic, Crushed
4 Cups Water
Vegetable trimmings from:
1 Large Carrot (Peels and ends)
2 Small Shallot Peels
1 Bunch of green onion ends and pieces
1 Dikon Radish (Peels and Ends)
Snow Pea Trimmings from 1 handful snow peas
Stems from 4 Shitake Mushrooms
Toast spices in a dry pressure cooker pot over medium high heat until mustard seeds begin to pop. Add tomato paste and cook an additional 60 seconds. Add shrimp shells, and all remaining ingredients. Cook at high pressure for 4 minutes. Release pressure and strain contents. Reduce remaining liquid to a thick sauce – almost the consistency of loose peanut butter.
Additional Curry Sauce Ingredients
1 Cup Coconut Milk
2 Tblspn Sambal Chili Paste
4 Dried Thai Chilis
Add all remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and season with salt. Reserve and keep warm.
1/4 Cup Snow Peas, Julianne
1 Medium Carrot, Julianne
1 Small Dikon Radish, Julianne
2 Tblspn Crushed Peanuts
2 Tblspn Kosher Salt
1 Tblspn Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tblspn Honey
2 Tspn Black Sesame Seeds
Mix all ingredients and reserve, cold.
Fish Sauce Caramel
200g Vietnamese style Fish Sauce
Cook over medium heat to a caramel consistency. This stuff keeps practically forever in your fridge. We only use a Tablespoon per serving, but toss in some sambal and fry up some wings and you have the award winning wings from Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon… seriously good… you just got a bonus recipe!
1 Pound Lump crab meat (unless you wanna rock jumbo lump baller!)
1 Serrano Pepper
1/4 Cup Sliced Green Onions
4 Shitake Mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 Shallots, finely diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, finely diced
1 Tblspn Chili Oil
1/4 Cup Asian Mayonaise
1 Egg yolk
2 Tblspn Vegetable oil
1 Tblspn Butter
1 Tblspn Kosher Salt
Mix all ingredients, and pack into biscuit cutters (tall ring molds). Sear until golden brown on both sides (about 2-3 minutes over medium high heat) and cook in oven for 5 minutes.
Pool up some red curry sauce on a plate. Top with two crab cakes and top the cakes with a large mound of the Asian slaw. Drizzle with fish sauce caramel and serve immediately.
I’m watching the Food Network show “Crave” and I’ll steal another line from the host… “These could only be better if every time you ate them Nickleback broke up”
Go make these crab cakes NOW! Or superimpose your own flavors and let me know what you come up with!
Now, I need to go pack for the Star Chef’s Congress in NYC this weekend… Check back here next week for some VERY exciting news… seriously, VERY EXCITING!