Try these awesome crab dishes

Published 12:40 pm Saturday, December 5, 2015

John Besh has a new restaurant called Willa Jean’s. The name sounds Southern, doesn’t it? The food is somewhat Southern but with some twists and turns. The Besh restaurant group now has 12 restaurants!


And Besh’s nonprofit organization works to protect and preserve the culinary heritage of New Orleans. Besh opened his first restaurant, August, in 2001, leading the way to a restaurant revival in New Orleans. He won the coveted James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef, Southeast in 2006.

He has three cookbooks and a new one (which I just bought) called Besh Big Easy, 101 home cooked New Orleans recipes.

This cookbook is a paperback and according to Besh, he wants you to take it into the kitchen and use it and not just look at the pictures.

Getting back to Willa Jean, we were impressed with the menu and the staff. It is located at 611 O’Keefe Ave, in the CBD of New Orleans. It is described as a retro-chic café offering Southern menus, baked goods, coffee, tea and cocktails. It is open from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. It was hard to know what to order since it all looked so good, but we had crab and corn fritters for our starter and I think that was the highlight of the meal. We ordered two tartines: one of smoked salmon, fresh cheese, capers, fine herbs, red onion on pumpernickel, (delicious) and another one with mushrooms and fried egg on white bread (not as good as the salmon). I ordered a grilled meatloaf sandwich with tomato jam and crispy onions on an onion roll. Delicious also! We shared a kale Caesar salad with cauliflower and parmesan. YUM! And since the place bills itself also as a bakery, we bought baked goods for breakfast the next morning.

So get over to Willa Jean’s as soon as possible. In the new John Besh cookbook I found the recipe for the corn and crab fritters. These fritters were served with a crab boil aioli but you could use any sauce of your choice to dip these fritters in, but I created an aioli for you to use.

John Besh said it is a marriage of hushpuppies to crab cakes!

How can you go wrong with that?


Crab and Corn Fritters

Serves 10-12

Canola oil, for frying

8 tablespoons butter

1 cup corn kernels (from about 2 ears)

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup sour cream

3 green onions, chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1 pound crabmeat

1 cup stone ground cornmeal

½ cup flour

1 ½ tablespoons baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon ground pepper

Heat about 3 inches oil in a small saucepan to 350°.

Melt the butter and pour into a mixing bowl.

Stir in the corn, eggs, sour cream, green onions, and jalapeño.

Fold in the crabmeat.

In another bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and pepper.

Stir the dry ingredients into the crabmeat mixture until well combined.

Wet your hands and form small balls of the fritter mixture.

Drop, a few at a time, into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning until the fritters are brown on all sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.


Crab Boil Aioli

Makes about 1 cup

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

3 scallions, white and light green parts only, minced

1 Tbsp. crab boil mix

1 clove garlic minced

1 cup mayonnaise

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a small skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the scallions and garlic with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook over moderately low heat for about 4 minutes.

Add the crab boil mix and the mayonnaise and mix well. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Can be stored for 3 days in the refrigerator.