Tag Archives: panko

Birthday Dinner (plus leftovers) – Crab Cakes with Dijon & White Wine Cream Sauces

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

There are indeed times that life becomes so overwhelming that I don’t even have time to cook. Then there are those times that I am just having so much fun that I’m too lazy to take the time to write about it on my blog! Thankfully, since I last posted, the latter has been the case.

I am feeling much better, work has been manageable and we have been busy having a little fun over the last couple of weeks including a camping trip for the Memorial Day weekend. This past weekend we celebrated my wife Kat’s birthday and as bad as I am at picking out gifts, hopefully I made up for it by cooking some of her favorite meals.

On Saturday night I made Crab Cakes with a Dijon cream sauce then yesterday, her actual birthday, the leftovers made for a very special brunch; Crab Cakes Benedict! I was pleased with the way they came out but the Benedict would have been better with a traditional Hollandaise sauce. I used a “quick and easy” version and I don’t think it was as good as taking the trouble to do it right. I am going to include a link below that explains both the quick and the traditional Hollandaise.

Speaking of sauces, the Dijon and white wine cream sauce is simply a variation from rouxbe.com, I just cut the recipe in half and used a little more wine to boost the flavor. You could certainly substitute plain non-fat yogurt but I don’t think a little bit of cream is all that bad for you as long as you practice moderation. If you do prefer to use yogurt remember not to let it come to a boil or it may curdle. Just move the pan on and off the heat to control your temp and you will be fine.

Unless you are picking the crabs yourself, I recommend using only the “fresh” canned crab that you find in the refrigerator case at a fresh fish market or a warehouse store. In my experience the stuff on the shelf (next to the tuna) at the grocery store just isn’t worth messing with. Lump crab is quite sufficient for crab cakes, I don’t think the extra expense of “jumbo lump” or “back fin” is really necessary. Usually, I buy the 16 oz can of Phillips or Blue Star brand at Costco or Restaurant Depot.

You may notice that the crab cake recipe itself is quite simple, even more so than my salmon patties, but there is a method to my madness. I have tried many different crab cake recipes including adding mayo, chopped onions, peppers and/or celery, Worcestershire sauce, and even cubed wonder bread to the mix. I have always gone back to minimizing the ingredients because crab has such a wonderful and delicate flavor…I prefer to keep it simple and let that flavor shine through.

Crab Cakes with Dijon & White Wine Cream Sauce

For the crab cakes…

1 Lb – Lump Crab meat, drained
1/3 Cup – fine panko bread crumbs, plus 1/3 cup on the side
1 – Egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon – Old Bay seasoning
Olive Oil
Canola Oil

For the Dijon & white wine cream sauce…

1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
1 Tbsp – Shallots, finely chopped
¼ cup – Dry white wine
1 cup – whipping cream
½ Tbsp – Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine the first four crab cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl and fold gently to combine. Mix well trying to break up the crab pieces as little as possible.

Using a 1/3 cup measure mold the mixture into cakes pressing firmly to compress into an evenly shaped patty. Dust the outside of each cake with additional panko and set very carefully on a lined cookie sheet so as to avoid breaking the cake. (This recipe should make 6 equal cakes with a little left over for one smaller cake for the cook.) When all the cakes have been formed, refrigerate the crab cakes for at least 1 hour to allow them time to set up.

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium high heat and add enough olive oil and canola oil (combined 50-50) to cover the entire bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, using a spatula, very gently place half of your crab cakes into the pan and cook about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Gently turn and cook 3 minutes more. Remove the browned crab cakes to a cooling rack or paper towel then carefully wipe out the pan and repeat with the rest of the crab cakes.

When all the crab cakes are browned, carefully pour off the oil and return the pan to the heat. Add the butter and when the butter has melted and just stopped foaming add the shallots. Cook the shallots for about one minute, stirring them to prevent burning then add the wine to the pan. Allow the wine to come to a boil and cook until the wine has nearly evaporated leaving only a few tablespoons of liquid.

Add the cream, whisking to combine and continue whisking steadily until the sauce returns to boil. Cook, whisking continuously until the sauce has reached your desired thickness, whisking in the Dijon mustard at the last minute. Test the sauce for seasonings and add salt & pepper to taste.

To serve, plate the crab cakes individually resting in a small pool of the cream sauce or serve with the sauce in a small dish on the side.

If you have leftovers do try Crab Cakes Benedict for breakfast the next day!

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

Simply reheat the crab cakes in a toaster or conventional oven until warmed through then serve them on a toasted English muffin topped with a poached egg and a little Hollandaise sauce. These are simple, elegant, and truly a great way to treat your loved ones to something special!



Mission “Learn to like Tilapia” – Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

For some time now I have been wrinkling my nose at tilapia. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sustainability factor of conscientiously farmed raised fish; I do! It’s the taste and the texture of most tilapia that turns me off. In my experience tilapia often has an unpleasant earthy (or muddy) taste and the texture can be mushy even when it’s perfectly fresh and flawlessly prepared. I don’t mean to be a food snob, really I don’t! But compared to all the fresh Atlantic seafood I have the opportunity to catch (well sometimes), or purchase here in South Florida, tilapia just seemed second rate.

Last night however, I decided to give tilapia another chance. Why? Because tilapia has taken over the market in leaps and bounds becoming one the most popular seafood products in the U.S. today. Everywhere I look, from restaurant menus, to grocery stores tilapia has become a recognized value and a very popular request. Hey, what was the old adage…If you can’t beat them, join them? So I picked up a package of fresh tilapia fillets and set out to prove myself wrong.

According to Cooks Illustrated the muddy taste in tilapia is caused by a naturally occurring compound called geosmin which is Greek for “earth smell”. (Go figure!) They said this compound is abundant in the blue-green algae found in the bottom of the man-made ponds that catfish and tilapia are raised in and that the flavor can be diffused by acids. They went on to recommend soaking in buttermilk for an hour before cooking which of course, I didn’t take the time to do.

My thinking in using this recipe was that the yogurt, garlic, and vinegar in the tzatziki would provide enough acid to overcome any unpleasant taste in the fish and indeed it did…somewhat. While the recipe is a keeper that I will definitely use again, I might opt for pre-soaking the tilapia in buttermilk next time (if I don’t use snapper, grouper, or mahi-mahi instead).

Hang on now…don’t fret! I haven’t given up on tilapia yet. After all, I still have 3 big fillets left from that package last night. I think I might try it with an acidic marinade, a Cuban mojo perhaps or some other citrus blend. I’ll keep you posted as mission “Learn to like Tilapia” continues!

Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

2 to 4 – Tilapia fillets (preferably pre-soaked in buttermilk for one hour)
¾ Cup – Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp – Olive Oil
Zest of one whole lemon
½ Tbsp – Large grind, fresh ground black pepper
Kosher Salt
Tzatziki Sauce (Recipe below)

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the fillets dry and place them on a lightly oiled, foil covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle the fillets with kosher salt and set them aside while you mix the crumb topping.

In a medium bowl combine the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and pepper then drizzle in the olive oil while stirring. Continue stirring and fluffing the crumbs loosely until the oil, lemon, and pepper has been very well distributed, about 5 minutes.

Spread an approximately 1/8 inch thick layer of tzatziki evenly on top of each fish fillet then sprinkle the crumb mixture over the tzatziki to form an evenly thick coat. Bake for 10 minutes then broil for 1 minute to crisp and brown the topping. Carefully remove from the oven and plate the cooked fillets.

Serve with additional tzatziki and a lemon wedge on the side.

Tzatziki Sauce

2 Cups – Greek Yogurt, plain non-fat
1 small (or 1/2 large) – Cucumber, seeded and grated  (about 1/2 cup)
1 Clove – Garlic, grated fine
1 Tbsp – Red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp – Olive oil
1 good pinch – kosher salt

Grate the cucumber and place it on a paper towel or dish towel, sprinkle it with the kosher salt and let it sit while you prep the other ingredients. In a medium bowl stir together the garlic, vinegar, and olive oil then stir in the yogurt. Finally, gently squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated cucumber and stir into the yogurt mixture until well blended. Taste for seasoning and chill until ready to use.



Scallops Two Ways: Pan-Seared with Grand Marnier Reduction Sauce and Pan-Fried Crusted with Panko and Orange

We decided to stay in last night and being that it was Saturday night I was in the mood for something a little special. After futzing around the house all day, the afternoon kind of snuck by and before I knew it, once again, it was too late to cook any long-cooking recipes. Seafood is a favorite when I don’t have a lot of time and scallops seemed like just the ticket for a nice dinner for two.

It is nearly impossible here in South Florida to find fresh sea scallops. Even when you find them at the fishmongers, scallops are often previously frozen or, even worse, wet-packed! I know I have written about this before but it bears mentioning again. Wet packed and even some frozen scallops (and shrimp) are soaked in a chemical solution called Sodium triphosphate or STP that ruins the flavor and texture. Take my word for it…you do not want to feed STP to your loved-ones! I always recommend IQF or “Individually Quick Frozen” scallops.

Thankfully, any time seafood is treated with STP it must be stated on the packaging and/or included in the ingredients. I visited our local BJ’s and picked up a nice two pound bag of IQF Sea Scallops. I’ve bought these here before but I always check the label and was pleased to find “Ingredients: Scallops” on this one. The two pound package should last Kat and I two, possibly three meals. So while scallops are a special treat for us, I don’t really consider them a splurge.

One of my favorite things to do when cooking shrimp or scallops is to prepare them 2, sometimes even 3 different ways, usually with a common thread tying the flavors together. I do this because, for me anyway, it makes the dinner seem especially nice…like something you might have at a restaurant. My common thread ingredient for this dinner was oranges. I have been on something of an orange kick lately and it’s a flavor that I think really compliments scallops. I am including both recipes here, either one would be a fine entrée (or appetizer) on its own.

I served these with leeks braised in white wine with orange rind and simple Old Bay seasoned and roasted Yukon potato medallions.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Grand Marnier Reduction Sauce

Recipe notes: This sauce is super concentrated and intensely flavorful. I would have preferred a little less sauce on the scallops pictured above. Plan on 3 scallops per person for an appetizer or a “Two Ways” entrée; use 6 per person if this will be your entrée.

3 to 6 – Medium scallops per person
¼ Cup – Grand Marnier
½ Cup – Fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. – Butter, cubed into 8 pieces and kept very cold
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Fresh Orange zest to garnish
Olive Oil

Prepare scallops by removing the tough adductor muscle from the side of the larger adductor muscle ( “see here” ) then pat them very dry using a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt & ground pepper.

Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium high heat. When oil is shimmering and just beginning to smoke carefully, one at a time, set the scallops into the pan. Sear the scallops without touching them until some browning becomes apparent around the edges, about two minutes. Turn them gently over and sear two minutes more or until scallops are cooked nearly through. (If you cut into one the center should still be a little translucent). Remove the scallops to a plate and cover to keep warm.

To the same pan add the orange juice and boil until the juice becomes syrupy and reduces to about three tablespoons. Remove the pan from heat, add the Grand Marnier and place back on heat. Cook, stirring or swirling occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to about 4 tablespoons. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter cubes 2 or 3 at a time. Continue stirring, adding more cubes as the butter melts and becomes incorporated until all butter has been added. The sauce should now be the right consistency for serving.

To serve place the scallops on your serving plates and drizzle a tiny bit of the sauce over each. Garnish each scallop with a pinch of orange zest and serve.

Pan-Fried Scallops Crusted with Panko and Orange Zest

Recipe Notes: The orange zest in the crust caramelizes quickly and turns a deep brown. Don’t worry! As long as you do not over-brown the crust it does not burn. Actually, I really liked the deep orangey flavor the caramelized zest gives the crust. The Grand Marnier sauce from the above recipe was good on these…just don’t use too much! Plan on 3 scallops per person for an appetizer or a “Two Ways” entrée; use 6 per person if this will be your entrée.

3 to 6 – Medium scallops per person
1-1/2 Cups – Panko crumbs
½ Cup – Whole Wheat or Unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Egg – Lightly beaten with 2 Tbsp. of water
Zest of one large orange (about 2 Tbsp.)
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Canola and Olive Oil

Prepare scallops by removing the tough adductor muscle from the side of the larger adductor muscle ( “see here” ) then pat them very dry using a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt & ground pepper.

In a small bowl combine the panko crumbs and orange zest, tossing to mix. Mix egg wash in another small bowl and place the flour in another. Dust the scallops first in the flour, then dredge in the egg wash, then toss them in the crumb mixture. Set crusted scallops on a plate and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Warm about 1/4 inch deep of 2 parts canola oil to one part olive oil in a med pan over medium heat. Allow oil to heat thoroughly before cooking the scallops. (Oil should measure 350 to 375 with a probe thermometer. When ready, a bread cube dropped into the pan should “boil” immediately and begin browning in about 1 minute.)

When your oil is hot, carefully place scallops, one by one, into the pan. Cook about two minutes, or until browning can be seen around the edges, turn and cook two minutes more. When golden brown (orange zest will be darker) remove the scallops from the pan to a paper towel or food rack to rest for about a minute.

Serve immediately with a little of the Grand Marnier reduction on the side.



Chicken Milanese

How to stretch those dinner dollars – Part 2

Last week when I made the Chicken Casserole I set out to demonstrate a use for my homemade chicken stock. Tonight when I rustled up one of my favorite quick dinners I realized that I was using the second of three large chicken breasts that came in a package my wife bought. The thought occurred to me that it was a great way to demonstrate getting a real value for your food dollar.

Kat picked up a package of boneless chicken breasts at Aldi last week. There were 3 large breast halves in the package weighing in at 2.43 pounds (or about ¾ pounds each) for $6.05. If I could use each of the 3 breasts for the basis for 3 different dinners for two that’s just over a dollar per plate! Sure I use other ingredients in the preparation but the protein is often the most expensive element of a meal. When you’re on a budget and trying to stretch your dinner dollars…a buck a person is an awesome start!

So once again I find myself posting a less than glamorous recipe but hey it’s Monday night after a tough day at work, after the NFL playoffs yesterday. I didn’t feel like spending all night in the kitchen and yes, at the risk of sounding silly I’ll say it again; this too is a Recipe Randy Cooks. It also happens to be one of my favorite ways to use boneless, skinless, chicken breasts.

Because I was using an extra-large chicken breast half I was able to get 4 nice pieces out of one breast by first butterflying it, then dividing it into 4 equal pieces. Here is a video that shows how to butterfly a chicken breast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySB2jgO1ljU&feature=fvw . For this recipe the breasts should be pounded very thin, no thicker than ¼ inch at the very thickest part.

Note that I dump out the oil and wipe the pan after cooking each batch of chicken. This is my secret method of ensuring a perfectly and evenly browned cutlet every time. Oh, and lest I forget… Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette is my favorite salad dressing and it’s a perfect choice in this dish. Traditionally the cutlet is buried under the salad but Kat and I both prefer it alongside so the chicken stays nice and crispy even after drizzling on a little fresh lemon juice.

Chicken Milanese

1 – Large Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast, butterflied and divided into 4 pieces, then pounded to ¼ thickness or less.
2 – Eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp – Water
2 Cups – Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Cup – Whole Wheat or Unbleached Flour
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive or Canola Oil

Salad of Green Leaf Lettuce with Grape Tomatoes and Celery slices.
Salad Dressing
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
Lemon Wedges

In one bowl, season the flour well with salt and pepper and stir to blend. In another bowl, gently beat the eggs and water to combine. Place the Panko Crumbs in a third bowl. One at a time dredge the chicken pieces first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg, then finally in the Panko Crumbs to coat evenly. Place the chicken in a single layer on a foil or parchment lined sheet pan to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.

Warm two tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering hot cook two pieces of the chicken, turning only once, until “light” golden brown on each side. Move the cooked chicken to a paper towel to wick away any excess oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Discard any oil left in the pan and carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then add 2 more tablespoons of oil and repeat the process, cooking the other two chicken pieces.

To serve, toss the salad, tomatoes, and celery with the dressing being careful to use only enough dressing to coat the greens. Place the chicken on the plate and cover partly (or not) with the salad. Top with shaved Parmesan and garnish with lemon slices to finish.