Tag Archives: Crab

Red curry crab cakes

A few weeks ago, I impulse-bought a couple tubs of Thai curry paste. Since then, it’s been curry central in this household. I love how these pastes provide deep flavor and powerful heat, without any work involved: no chopping, no mashing, no nothing. If you have Thai curry paste in the fridge, coconut milk and rice in the pantry, maybe some fish sauce and limes, you can follow the recipe on the label and turn pretty much any combination of protein and veggies into a quick and powerful meal. But even beyond that, I’ve found these pastes are terrific for everything from dumplings to lentil soup to a simple coconut sauce for fish or chicken (which I’ll get around to posting sometime soon).

I bought two kinds of curry paste: red and green. The red curry is a bit sharper and tangier, while the green curry is rich and deep and slightly sweet. I actually like the green better for straight-up curry, but the red has proven to be a bit more versatile overall. When I learned that red curry paste is a key ingredient in Thai fish cakes, it was only a matter of time before I tried it in one of my favorite seafood dishes of all time: crab cakes.

This is a total mash-up recipe, in the best way. These little nibbles have all the flavors of Thai fish cakes–red curry, green beans, scallions, fish sauce, lime–with the texture of an all-American crab cake. Unlike the Thai version, which requires a food processor and deep-frying, these can be made in a matter of minutes in just one bowl, with minimal mess and less fuss. The crab mixture benefits from a little time in the fridge before cooking, but it’s really not necessary. I can–and have–made these on a whim for Sunday lunch, in 20 minutes or less. They’re terrific that way.

How big or small you make these is totally up to you. I go for a sort of middle ground and make 8 smallish cakes, which I think are ideal for an at-home appetizer or light lunch. You could make 4 giant cakes, or 16 itty-bitty cakes to serve as a party snack. If you go bigger, I’d suggest covering the skillet while the cakes cook, so that they heat through by the time they’ve browned.

red curry crab cakes

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Avocado crab salad

When it comes to flavor combinations, food people love to talk about “matches made in heaven.” There must be thousands of them–pairs of foods that, when combined, produce something mysteriously greater than the sum of their parts. Some pairs are well-known, shouted from rooftops, loudly and eloquently beloved. Peanut butter and banana! Strawberry and rhubarb! Mushrooms and sage! Pumpkin and cinnamon! Chocolate and chili! Chocolate and hazelnut! Chocolate and coffee!

Then there are the pairs that we sort of forget about, until they saunter up side-by-side and slap us on the chin. Like crab and avocado.

Every time I eat avocado and crab together, I’m freshly amazed at how well they get along. Something about the creamy, fruity richness of the avocado makes it an ideal pair for sweet stringy crab. Not long ago, I had a salad at a business lunch that reminded me, again, of how great they are together. Like most of my crab-and-avocado encounters, it kept the two separate: a pile of crabmeat, a fan of avocado slices, lettuce, and vinaigrette. No more than that. I ate, and my eyes rolled back in my head a little, and I made up my mind not to let the combination slip my mind again.

From there, I started thinking about a different kind of crab salad, the picnic and barbecue kind, bound together with mayonnaise and flecked with tiny vegetable bits. What if I replaced the mayonnaise with avocado? Would that even work?

The short answer is, yes. Absolutely. A perfectly ripe avocado, mashed ferociously with a whisk, makes a fine mayonnaise substitute, and infuses every bite of the crab salad with buttery flavor. I tossed in the chopped-up leftover vegetables from my gazpacho experiment, and spiked the whole thing with plenty of hot sauce. (Next time, I think I’ll use a green pepper rather than red, for more of a bitter bite against the rich avocado and sweet crab.) The salad tasted like a crabby guacamole, and cried out to be piled onto tortilla chips. I can only imagine how terrific this would be at a backyard barbecue in the summertime, with plenty of cold drinks and good friends close at hand.

avocado crab salad

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Grilled soft-shell crab

Boy, do I have a treat for you.

This past weekend’s Supermoon–the first full moon in May–marked the beginning of soft-shell crab season. And I have discovered the very best way to eat soft-shell crabs: grilled and slathered with barbeque butter. I’m almost reluctant to share, this is so good.

Soft-shell crabs are in season from May to September, mostly from the waters of the central Atlantic coast. This is the time of year that blue crabs molt, leaving them with nothing but a paper-thin proto-shell for a few hours at a time. If these crabs are caught before their new shells have a chance to grow, they are completely edible–exoskeleton and all.

The thin shell of a soft-shell crab is crackly, almost like the crisp skin on a roast chicken; the inside is juicy, gooey, sweet and unmistakably crabby. If you can get your hands on these bizarre little beasties, you are in for a treat.

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