Cooking with crab on Shelter Island this summer

COURTESY PHOTO | With local blue claw crabs readily available, why not turn them into crab cakes?

COURTESY PHOTO | With local blue claw crabs readily available, why not turn them into crab cakes?

One of the best things about summers on Shelter Island is the increasing number of places where you can get terrific, locally sourced food. If you don’t feel like cooking, there are several excellent restaurants that serve delicious dishes, using the absolute best ingredients they can find. If, though, you’ve got the time, inclination and just a little skill, you can put out a fine meal with almost everything obtained right here!  

The Sylvester Manor farm stand opened up this past weekend, and on Saturday I picked up some beautiful snap peas, bok choy and also some amazing blue oyster and shiitake mushrooms grown by Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton.

My next stop was the Haven’s House green market at the Shelter Island Historical Society, and as I was perusing the fresh fish selection from Alice’s, a lad dropped off a bushel of gigantic blue claw crabs, out of the water maybe an hour.

I snatched up eight of them (they tried to snatch me, as well) took them home, steamed them, and, an hour and a half and a couple of beers later, wound up with an incredible yield of one pound of delectable crabmeat.

I sautéed the vegetables with a little olive oil, butter and chopped shallots, spooned them on top of a couple of leaves of local romaine lettuce, then served them with two or three crab cakes made with the following recipe.

I played around with the condiment, adding a little sour cream and tarragon, and using dill pickle to make the tartar sauce “tart-er”.  Actually, with the addition of the chopped egg and capers, it’s more like a sauce gribiche, but whatever you call it, it’s just great with the crispy crab cakes.

The treat at the end was rolling up whatever was left on the plate with the romaine leaves and eating them like a veggie taco!

For the Crab Cakes:

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes

Yield:  about 10 cakes

1 pound crabmeat, picked over for shells

6 tablespoons dry bread crumbs (plus just a bit more if necessary)

2 tablespoons butter

1 clove garlic, minced

½ cup onion, minced

½ cup celery, minced

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

fresh pepper and salt to taste

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

flour, beaten egg and panko for breading

olive oil for frying

1. Melt butter and sauté garlic until fragrant. Add celery and onion and cook until soft over medium heat.

2. In a medium bowl, mix bread crumbs, crabmeat, egg, mustard and parsley.

Stir in the cooked vegetables, and add a little bit more bread crumbs if the mixture seems a little wet; just don’t overdo it! Cover and chill for a bit and then portion and form into cakes using about ¼ cup mix per cake.

3. Using standard breading procedure, dust cakes with flour, dip in egg, then panko on both sides.

4. Heat olive oil in a deep skillet and fry cakes , without crowding, on both sides until golden brown and heated through.

Serve on a bed of lettuce with sautéed spring vegetables and some sauce gribiche, tartar sauce, bearnaise or aioli.

For the Sauce Gribiche:

Prep time: 15 minutes

Yield: about 1 ½ cups

1 cup prepared mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1 small dill pickle, chopped and drained

1 teaspoon salt-packed capers, rinsed and chopped

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Procedure: Seriously? You know what to do with this.