Side Dish: Blue crab takes the cake

As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing better than Louisiana’s blue crab. I have loved crab meat since I was a toddler and would accompany my parents to New Orleans’ West End restaurants for boiled crabs.

So, I have been especially pleased that area chefs have showcased Louisiana’s crab at various events in the past few weeks. That includes the delicious crab cakes served by Galatoire’s Bistro in Baton Rouge at its May 14 James Beard House Dinner. That dinner re-created the menu Michael Sichel, executive chef of Galatoire’s and 33 Bar & Steak in New Orleans’ French Quarter, and Kelley McCann, executive chef of Galatoire’s Bistro, had prepared at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City on March 8.

McCann has kindly shared his recipe for the dinner’s Jumbo Lump Louisiana Crab Cake With Spicy Aïoli and Apple-Leek Slaw. But, if you’d rather not make it yourself, the crab cakes are among the five courses on the James Beard Tasting Menu being offered at Galatoire’s Bistro, 3535 Perkins Road, No. 400, Baton Rouge, through June 29. The tasting menu is $55 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Call (225) 753-4864 for reservations.

Another crab cake that had me wanting more was prepared by Tommy’s Fish House, 37306 Perkins Road, Prairieville, for the Miss USA reception sponsored by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board at Nottoway Plantation in White Castle on Saturday. I’m hoping it will share its recipe, too.

The Nottoway event was held to introduce the Miss USA contestants to Louisiana’s seafood, and they certainly got a wonderful introduction. Besides Tommy’s crab cakes, there were such yummy choices as alligator by Hot Tails in New Roads; crawfish étouffée by Juban’s Restaurant, Baton Rouge; boiled crawfish plus a fabulous fresh crawfish salad by Troy Deano, chef/partner with Exclamation Point Hospitality Group, Baton Rouge; shrimp and white beans by Café Reconcile, the nonprofit restaurant that provides life skills and job training to youth from at-risk communities in the New Orleans area; cobia by Nottoway Plantation’s Executive Chef Guy Sockrider; barbecued oysters by Tommy’s Fish House; and raw oysters and boiled shrimp prepared by Tideland Seafood Co., Inc.’s Alan Gibson, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. The board purchased all the seafood since it sponsored the event.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.

Jumbo Lump Louisiana Crab Cake With Spicy Aïoli and Apple and Leek Slaw

Serves 4. Recipe is by Executive Chef Kelley McCann of Galatoire’s Bistro, Baton Rouge.

For the aïoli:

¼ cup chopped celery

¼ cup chopped scallions

½ cup chopped yellow onion

¼ cup ketchup

¼ cup tomato purée

¼ cup Creole mustard

1 tbl. horseradish

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 tbl. paprika

¾ cup mayonnaise

For the slaw:

3 leeks

2 green apples

1⁄3 cup mayonnaise

2 tbls. lemon juice

2 tbls. honey

1 tbl. rice vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

For crab cakes:

¼ cup diced red onion

¼ cup diced green bell pepper

¼ cup chopped scallions

1 tbl. minced garlic

1 lb. jumbo lump crab

Crab boil seasoning, to taste

Unseasoned bread crumbs

1. Make the aïoli: Mince the celery, scallions and onions in a food processor. Add the ketchup, tomato purée, Creole mustard, horseradish, red wine vinegar, paprika and mayonnaise. Keep refrigerated.

2. Prepare the slaw: Wash leeks thoroughly in cold water to remove any dirt trapped between the leaf layers. Julienne (sliced into thin, matchstick strips) the apples and leeks into equal sizes. In a small mixing bowl, combine and mix together the remaining slaw ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add in apples and leeks.

3. Make the crab cakes: Sauté red onion, bell pepper, scallions and garlic in a small pan, then remove from heat and allow to cool.

4. In a small mixing bowl, add together crab meat, sautéed vegetables, crab boil seasoning and enough aïoli to cover the crab cake mixture. Mix in just enough bread crumbs to keep the crab cakes from falling apart and form into equal-sized cakes. Sear crab cakes in a nonstick sauté pan until golden brown on each side.

5. Plate dish by placing a small amount of aïoli in center of plate, then a crab cake and top with slaw.