Come crowd around the crab cakes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 10, 2011

My husband’s niece, Jody, decided to celebrate her 45th wedding anniversary in New Orleans. She and her husband spent their honeymoon at the Royal Orleans 45 years ago, and she thought it was time to go back and revisit this city with her friends. She was afraid she would not make it to her 50th anniversary, but knowing Jody, I am sure she will. She planned this almost a year in advance, and it turned out to be a hot, but memorable, weekend.

We started out Thursday night with a small group of early arrivers, with dinner at Cochon. This is a Donald Link restaurant and is well worth a visit. Cochon means “pig” in French, so there were pork cheeks and pork belly on the menu. One of our favorite items was a salad made of zucchini, cucumber, onion, feta cheese and some small pecan pieces with a pecan dressing. I did it upon returning, and it was just as easy as it sounds. Slice the zucchini, cucumber and onion very thin; marinate in the pecan dressing for a while before serving. Make the dressing with pecan oil, chopped pecans and a little vinegar, if you like; I didn’t use vinegar. Sprinkle with feta. Salt and pepper. Another way to serve your excess squash. Growing up, squash was always cooked, but I have learned it is great raw as well.

On Friday everyone arrived (most from the Nashville, Tenn., area but some from as far as Chicago), and Jody had booked a private room at Broussard’s for a “meet and greet” session with cocktails. Now cocktail hour lasted two hours with some pickup appetizers. I was curious how much that bar bill might have been for 50 people. I did not ask!

After the two hours of cocktails, everyone was on their own for dinner. We chose Arnaud’s since we like the old dining establishments and try to support them. We were to eat with Jody’s brother and his wife, but as they were leaving the Nashville airport, they got a call that their son’s wife was in labor so they did not make the Arnaud’s dinner. We had dinner with one of our sons, my husband’s sister, and Jody’s son and wife. It was easy to get a replacement couple for Arnaud’s.

A great meal was had by all with Oysters Arnaud for starters, and Pompano Duarte for the entrée. Jane Casbarian, the owner, is a friend of the couple who did not make it, but treated us to after-dinner drinks anyway.

My husband’s sister treated us for lunch at Galatoire’s on Saturday morning before the big event on Saturday night. We spent three hours there, but many people spend the day and stay for dinner. We had all our favorite things: Crabmeat Maison, Shrimp Remoulade and Oysters en Brochette. Our main course was a pompano with lump crab on top. What a wonderful meal.

After a small rest, we all dressed for the main event. A sit down dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico! The cocktail hour was only an hour this time, so at 7 p.m. we all sat down in the upstairs of Delmonico for our four course meal. The meal was served to perfection by the wait staff. We had choices for our courses, but everything was so good. I chose a filet for the main course and it would melt in your mouth. I would highly recommend Delmonico for one of your next meals in New Orleans. Delmonico opened in 1895, 70 years after the original in New York. It was opened by Anthony Commander, who opened Commander’s Palace in 1880. Emeril Lagasse took over in 1997, adding Delmonico to his already successful Emeril’s and NOLA.

A few pounds heavier, we waddled home. But thank you Jody, for a weekend to remember! I think we should get together next year. What do you say?

Emeril’s Delmonico served an appetizer of crab cakes with a chili-lime dressing and a mango-cucumber relish. This is worth repeating. Jody gave all of us a gift of the Delmonico cookbook. So I did this recipe from my new cookbook, Emeril’s Delmonico, Restaurant with a Past. It is as pretty as it is good.

Pan-Fried Crab Cakes with Chili-Lime Dressing, Mango-Cucumber Relish and Mixed Greens

Makes 4-8 servings

4 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped green onions (green parts only)

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage

6 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 large egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 ½ cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

½ cup vegetable oil

1 recipe Mango-Cucumber Relish (recipe follows)

1 recipe Chile-Lime Dressing (recipe follows)

1 cup mesclun or assorted baby greens, for garnish

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the butter, mayonnaise, lemon juice, olive oil, green onions, chives and parsley in the bowl of a food processor, and process until well blended and slightly thickened. Add the salt, pepper, and cayenne and process for 15 seconds to blend. Transfer to a medium bowl with the crabmeat and breadcrumbs and fold gently to mix, being careful not to break up the lumps.

Form the crabmeat mixture into eight 2 ½ to 3-inch-round cakes, about 2 ½ ounces each, and pack gently but firmly. Place on the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until well chilled for one to two hours.

Place the flour in a small shallow dish. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk to make an egg wash. Place the panko in a third shallow dish.

Dredge each crab cake in the flour, then in the egg wash, and then in the panko crumbs, shaking to remove any excess breading. (Note that the crab cake mixture will be slightly wet and should be handled carefully. If the crab cake becomes too loose during the breading, they can be refrigerated again until firm.) Set aside.

Heat ¼ cup of the vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Pan-fry the crab cakes three or four at a time until golden brown, about 4 ½ minutes per side. Add more oil as needed. Drain the crab cakes on paper towels.

To serve, arrange two crab cakes on each of four plates and top with 2 tablespoons of the Mango-Cucumber Relish. Drizzle the Chili-Lime Dressing around the crab cakes, garnish each plate with greens and serve immediately.

Mango-Cucumber Dressing

Makes 1 ¼ cups

½ cup peeled, seeded, and diced mangoes

½ cup peeled, seeded, and diced cucumbers

¼ cup seeded and diced red bell peppers

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Place the mangoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers in a medium bowl and toss gently with the vinegar and oil to coat. Cover and chill until ready to serve. (The relish can be made up to two hours in advance.)

Chili-Lime Dressing

6 tablespoons chili garlic sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted

¾ teaspoon sesame oil

¼ cup olive oil

Combine the chili garlic sauce, lime juice, sesame seeds and sesame oil in a medium bowl and stir well to combine. Whisking slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream and whisk to combine. Set aside until ready to serve. (The chili-lime dressing will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to three days.)

As our host said Saturday night, “Laissez les bon temps roulez!”