Sunday, October 3, 2010

Simple Fish Tacos and Crab Cakes

One thing I've learned from Alton Brown is that fried food does not have to be greasy, and that is part of what this week's recipe is about. Outside of Tempura, it can be difficult to find fish, vegetables or the like in a restaurant (or home) that have been fried but not overly greasy. Granted, some people like it that way -- and, it's not like you aren't always going to have at least some grease -- but it doesn't have to be nasty.

I rarely do fried foods on this blog (I think the last time was 2009's coconut shrimp), but this week I present fish tacos with fried shrimp and crab cakes with a spicy yogurt sauce.

As per usual, when I do fry food, I recommend peanut oil in a cast-iron skillet (although a stainless steel one will do as well -- the more layers of metal, the better). And, while using too little oil will result in burned food, using too much will transform your food from classy to trashy. Clean oil (or lightly used) will also make a difference in the quality of your fry.

INGREDIENTS (this makes enough for one - adjust as needed)

(for tacos)
- 7-10 regular-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 small corn tortillas (flour variety could be used as well)
- 1/4 cup Mexican melting cheese
- Arugula (for garnish)
- Batter (1 egg, beaten; 3/4 cup flour; 1 tbsp hot sauce)

(for cakes)
- 1/2 pound fresh lump crab meat
- Batter (1 egg, beaten; 1 cup panko/bread crumbs; 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; 2 tbsp mustard (yellow, dijon or brown will work); 1/3 cup mayo)

(for sauce)
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp hot sauce
- 1 tsp (or to taste) salt and pepper
(if you have a lime, cut a slice and squeeze it into the sauce)

- 1/2 cup+ peanut or vegetable oil for frying

Make a double vodka, put on some tunes and get to work ...

First, mix the ingredients for the yogurt sauce in a bowl, stirring thoroughly. Chill in refrigerator while preparing the rest of the food.

Next, make the cakes (they will need to be chilled for at least 30 minutes). In a large bowl, combine ingredients for batter and mix thoroughly. Form cakes (these proportions make two) by working the mixture with your hands and flattening it into two patties. If the consistency is too loose, add a little more mayo. Place patties on a plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

While the cakes chill, get ready for the shrimp. Crack and beat one medium egg in a bowl, and add a generous helping of your favorite hot sauce. Then, place about 1 cup flour in a second bowl.

Heat oil in the skillet to medium-high. While it is warming up, dunk each shrimp (peeled and deveined)  in the egg mixture, then coat it generously with the flour. Place each on a plate when finished prepping. When you can flick a few drops of water on the oil and hear it crackle nice and loud, you are ready to fry the shrimp. Take care not to splash the oil and burn yourself! They will cook in 4-5 minutes -- when the breading is golden brown, remove and place on a plate atop a paper towel to soak the excess oil. Pull the towel over them and turn your attention to the crab cakes.

Many recipes indicate chilling crab cakes for 2+ hours prior to frying. I find this to depend upon the ingredients. In this case, 30 minutes will be fine (if you chill them longer, it will be fine too). When ready, remove them from the fridge and dredge them in a little more panko. Then, place them in the oil (which should still be hot from cooking the shrimp). They will cook in roughly 5-7 minutes, depending how thick they are. Flip them about 1/2 way through, keeping an eye on the doneness of each side. When the exterior is browned (but not burned), you are ready to remove them from the oil and pat them with a paper towel.

If you are dressing the entree up for guests, etc., garnish the top of the cake with a fresh tomato slice (or two), and sprinkle with freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley. Place a dollop of the yogurt sauce in each corn tortilla, then add the shrimp and top with shredded Mexican melting cheese and fresh arugula.

Plate and enjoy. The sauce is also nice on the crab cakes.

Tonight's music: Off The Wall by Michael Jackson, Katy Lied by Steely Dan

Technology Tip: I may have mentioned it before, but if you haven't tried it, browse to and download the free browser plug-in (Win or Mac). What it does is transform your browser into a dynamic, animated interface with which to browse photo and video content on a site (you can turn it off or on by clicking a button). You can surf most anywhere with it, and even shop with it. It is not dissimilar from Apple's touch screen interfaces; and further, if you frequently give presentations involving sites like Flickr, YouTube or the like, Cooliris can put a very engaging sheen on the visual component of your delivery.