A traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner is comprised of numerous courses of fish. It was a sin, way back, to eat meat on Christmas Eve and many folks fasted all day too.
However, my brother David was born on Christmas Eve so things got all catawampus at our house. David is the second oldest, was born with no name in mind. The story goes that after attending midnight mass, my father went back to the hospital and said he had to be named David, as that was the most mentioned name in the entire service.
Then I moved to New York and every Jewish person I met was totally surprised that our Catholic family had a son named David! Oy vey!
Well David and his brood (7 kids and 10 grandchildren with 2 more on the way) still live in St. Louis. So all of us on the East coast could go back to a more traditional meal, rather than his birthday request.
Here is what I served for this year.
Taramusalata with red pepper and celery sticks
Greek cheese & aged Gouda with Breton crackers
Beautiful bunch of grapes
Crab cakes on a bed of Boston lettuce with chipotle mayonnaise and 1/2 slice of warm homemade Polish bread just out of the oven.
Steamed whole striped bass with ginger and lemon
Coarse bulgar with olive oil and parsley
Oven roasted plum tomatoes with oregano
Christmas cookies, of course!
David’s wife, Pat, requested the crab cake recipe. This is from Preston Clark at Food and Wine magazine and it is the best crab cake recipe I have found so far. Now my husband is from Baltimore, so this is a big deal. Baltimoreans know their crab and they serve up the BEST jumbo lump crab cakes. A fine restaurant there will never use a lot or maybe any breading, but then I could never figure out how they got them to hold together because every time I would try to replicate their recipes, they would taste good, but look terrible as they always fell apart.
This recipe uses another fish as a binding – it’s genius! Fresh and full of flavor with the jalapeños and scallions, and crispy on the outside, you will love these. And they hold together nicely.
Here you go!
CRISP CRAB CAKES WITH CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE – ADAPTED FROM PRESTON CLARK
-serves 8 as a first course or 4 as a main
1/4 – 1/2 lb. skinless flounder fillet, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 scallions, thinly sliced
3 jalapeños, seeded and minced
3 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tbs. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 lb. lump or jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells, lay out on a paper towel and pat dry on top
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
Pure olive oil, for frying (I think I might try canola or peanut next time to get it at a higher temperature.)
This makes a lot and all is not necessary for the crab cakes, but you can use leftovers for other meat sandwiches, especially turkey would be good
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 chipotle chile in adobo, seeded and minced (or leave the seeds in if you like it spicey – I did)
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
To make the cakes:
In a mini food processor, puree the fish. A small fillet is about 8 oz and my fishmonger wouldn’t sell any less so I used the whole 1/2 lb. and pureed it in two batches. Transfer the pureed fish to a large bowl and add the scallions, jalapeños, lemon juice, parsley, cayenne, salt, pepper and mayonnaise and mix thoroughly. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the crabmeat. Form the mixture into 8 cakes. Place the panko in a pie plate and gently coat the cakes with the panko and refrigerate for 30 minutes. It is important to refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes, so you can handle them and they hold their shape when frying.
To make the mayonnaise:
In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, chipotle, lemon juice, Old Bay and mustard and season with salt and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate.
To fry the cakes:
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Add the crab cakes and cook over moderate heat until browned and heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Use 2 skillets or do 2 batches as 4 at a time is enough.
I served the crab cakes on a bed of one Boston lettuce leaf topped with watercress with a dab of the chipotle mayonnaise. Squeeze a tiny bit of fresh lemon juice on the outside rim of the lettuce, before placing on the crab cake, then put on your dab of mayonnaise.
So pretty. So fresh. So good!!