This past summer, I betrayed my vegetarian sensibilities and made shrimp for a party. I mentioned that I also made mini-crab cakes. No, I did not get a picture of them, I never even got them out to the buffet table. People kept roaming into the kitchen and stealing them off the platter so that literally, not a single one was left once I finished all my prep. I think that is the sign of a good recipe.
When we threw that party, our babysitter Catherine came to help us out with the boys. She had recently asked me to cater her 30th birthday party and she was scouting out the food table for ideas. She was one of the crab cake thieves and told me that no matter what else I made, she wanted these crab cakes on the menu.
It feels a little strange to be writing about a food that I have not tasted. It’s one of the reasons I never make meat, aside from a couple of seafood items a few times a year. People always ask me if I cook meat for my husband or made it for my clients. For me, it’s not really an option. I want to be able to taste what I am making, to make sure it is seasoned properly, to make sure I like the food, to asses whether or not I would make it again.
But here is the thing. People like crab. People like crab cakes. This is an easy recipe and it can be made in advance. I know enough about cooking to know that these would taste good and judging from the disappearing-off-the-platter vanishing act, they do. Yes crab is expensive, but this recipe only calls for 6 ounces and the yield is 24 appetizers. The rest of the ingredients are relatively cheap and might possibly be in your house right now. If you need a holiday appetizer winner, these are a good choice. Or so I am told.
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
4 tsp. plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives, divided
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Large pinch cayenne pepper
6 ounces fresh lump crabmeat, picked over, patted dry, coarsely shredded
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan and egg; beat to blend. Beat in sour cream, lemon peel, 4 tsp. chopped chives, salt and cayenne pepper. Fold in crabmeat. (Can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 1 large or 2 small mini-muffin pans. Toss panko, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and 2 tbsp. chopped chives in small bowl. Drizzle 1/4 cup melted butter over, tossing with fork until evenly moistened. Press 1 rounded tablespoon panko mixture into bottom of each muffin cup, forming crust. Spoon 1 generous tablespoon crab mixture into each cup. Sprinkle rounded teaspoon of panko mixture over (some may be left over).
Bake crab cakes until golden on top and set, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans 5 minutes. Run knife around each cake and gently lift out of pan. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Arrange on baking sheet; let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 350°F oven 6 to 8 minutes.)