Crab cake bites and bacon fried pecans: Two do-ahead appetizers
Planning a party? Try these two easy appetizer ideas that can be prepped ahead of time. Top mini crab cakes with a tangy, creamy artichoke tartar sauce, and toss toasted pecans with bacon bits.
Many years ago, I picked up a recipe card in the checkout line at a grocery store in London. It had a complicated fish recipe, but what attracted me was the artichoke tartar sauce. That card sat in my recipe file for years, until I rediscovered it and decided to give it a go. The recipe was a complete dud. Weird ingredients, lengthy procedures and it just didn’t come together. It left me with a bowl of gloopy, oddly colored mess. So I threw the card away (and the sauce).Skip to next paragraph
The Runaway Spoon
Perre Magness has studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France has broadened her own culinary skill and palate. The kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.
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But the idea stuck. A tangy, creamy sauce with a nice bite from artichoke hearts that would be a great accompaniment to seafood. So I persevered and came up with this version. I first took it to a friend’s house for a fish fry – they fried the fish caught that morning. It was a big hit, so I wanted to share the recipe. But it has taken me another few years to figure out how to do it.
I don’t particularly enjoy frying fish myself, so no duplicating the tartar sauce’s triumphant debut. Then it hit me – crab cakes. Like a semi-deconstructed crab and artichoke dip. I fiddled with a classic crab cake recipe, paring it down to basic flavors so the tartar sauce wouldn’t be overwhelmed. And pressing the mixture into little muffin tins makes them easier to cook and perfect bites for a party – the tins can be filled and refrigerated just until ready to bake. A little dollop of tartar sauce makes them pretty, and the mini-sized, crispy sides make them easy to eat.
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Crab cake bites
Makes 24 crab cakes
For the crab cakes:
1 pound lump crabmeat (see note)
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Pick over the crabmeat to make sure there are no pieces of shell, then add the crab to the eggs. Add the melted butter, mayonnaise and parsley and fold together gently. You want everything well combined but try not to break up the crabmeat.
2. Mix the breadcrumbs, baking powder, Old Bay, and mustard powder together in a small bowl. Add to the crab mixture and gently fold through. Again, you want everything combined, but don’t break up the crabmeat. Refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour, but several is fine. This binds the mixture together and makes it easier to fill the tins.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 24 mini-muffin cups well with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each cup with crab cake mixture, pressing it in to fill it well. Press a rounded teaspoon down in the middle of each cake to make a little well in the center (this will keep them from mounding up and create a nice flat surface for the tartar sauce). You can cover the tins with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for several hours at this point.
Bake the crab cakes for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown, then cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the cakes and remove them from the pan. Spoon a little tartar sauce on top of each cake and serve immediately, though these taste lovely at room temperature.
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