From left, Coast Day Crab Cake Cook-Off winners Bonnie Robinson, Denise Vansant and Joyce R. Sauter.

Recipes to savor

Coast Day contestants cook up new twists on crab cakes and chowder

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3:13 p.m., Oct. 11, 2012--Panko appeared to be the secret ingredient in this year’s Coast Day Crab Cake Cook-Off.

The Japanese-style panko breadcrumbs gave satisfying crunch to “Bonnie’s Delaware Crab Cakes” made by Bonnie Robinson of Seaford, Del., who took first prize in the Crab Cake Cook-Off. Her crab cakes were topped with a sweet and sour blend of hot sauce, honey, pickle relish, mayonnaise and spices.

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Judges selected Robinson as the winner based on taste, originality, balance of crab meat and texture. The crab cake connoisseurs included last year’s champion, Carl Zampini; Chesapeake Bay Crabs cookbook author Judy Colbert; and Cook-Off trivia contest winner Lori Maramante.

“Bonnie Robinson’s crab cake merited the top slot because it combined qualities of a well-executed crab cake: good form, texture and taste, along with the creativity of a lovely sauce that enhanced the crab flavor,” Maramante said.

Robinson competed against six other finalists in the 23rd edition of the contest. She received a $200 cash prize, a plaque and the privilege of returning next year as a judge. Second place and a $150 prize went to Denise Vansant of Rehoboth Beach, Del., for her “Bawlmer Girl Crab Cakes with Old Bay Butter Pad.” Winning third place and $100 was Joyce R. Sauter of Bridgeville, Del., for her “Imperial Crab Cakes.”

Other finalists in the competition included Darla Koff of Frederica, Del., Steven Ruiz of New Castle, Del., Dianne Tingle of Lincoln, Del., and Raymond Williams of Bear, Del.

Nearby at the Seafood Chowder Challenge, the ACF First State Chefs Association and the Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association squared off in friendly competition. Clams, donated by Seawatch International Inc. in Milford, Del., were the featured ingredient.

Coast Day attendees sampled both chowders and voted the ACF First State Chefs Association as their top choice. Representatives from the association prepared a recipe by member Eric Aber of Newark’s Home Grown Café called “Chowdah Head Chowder.”

“The winners in both contests added a few interesting twists to traditional seafood recipes,” said Doris Hicks, seafood specialist with Delaware Sea Grant and organizer of the competitions. “I’m always so impressed with the ideas all of the contestants come up with each year.”

Coast Day was presented by UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and Delaware Sea Grant and sponsored by DuPont Clear into the Future, Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc., UTEC Survey Inc., WMDT—CW-3, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Winning crab cake recipes

First place: Bonnie’s Delaware Crab Cakes
Bonnie Robinson, Seaford, Del. 

Crab Cakes:
2 pounds lump crab meat
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons parsley
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
½ cup liquid margarine
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 dashes of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
2 cups Zesta crackers, crushed finely

Mixture of ½ cup panko breadcrumbs and ½ cup Zesta crackers for coating crab cakes 

Crab Cake Sauce:
2 cups mayonnaise
2-3 tablespoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 ½ tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons pickle relish

¼ to ½ cup of Puritan oil for frying

Mix ingredients together except for crab meat and crackers; add crab meat and crackers and mix well and lightly. Make into crab cakes and roll in mixture of ½ cup panko breadcrumbs and ½ cup Zesta crackers. Fry in Puritan oil. Mix crab cake sauce and refrigerate until ready for use.

Second place: Bawlmer Girl Crab Cakes with Old Bay Butter Pad
Denise Vansant, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Crab Cakes:
2 pounds lump crab meat
2 eggs, beaten
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped, no stems)
teaspoon allspice
2 cups dry breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil for frying

Old Bay Butter Pad for Tops:
4 oz. butter (softened)
6 teaspoons fresh parsley (chopped)
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

Mix together eggs, butter, lemon juice, Worcestershire, parsley and allspice in a bowl. Place crab meat in a separate bowl, pour egg mixture over top. Mix gently. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Form the crab cakes by hand (crab cakes are not supposed to be perfectly formed circles). Do not pack the mixture. Place the crab cakes on a tray. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Pour oil, about 1½ inches, into frying pan. Heat oil. Fry crab cakes about 4 minutes on each side. Serve at once. 

Old Bay Butter for Tops: Cream softened butter; stir in parsley, lemon juice and Old Bay seasoning. Form into a roll and wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate to harden. Temper Old Bay seasoned butter for 30 minutes, then slice one slice for each crab cake. Place on top of hot crab cakes.

Third place: Imperial Crab Cakes
Joyce R. Sauter, Bridgeville, Del.

2 pounds lump crab meat
3 large eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted
¼ cup half and half
2 tablespoons (heaping) mayonnaise
½ cup plain breadcrumbs
3 springs parsley, chopped (stems removed)
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
teaspoon red pepper (ground cayenne)
¼ cup olive oil

Place crab meat into a large bowl, checking for shells. For crab cake filling, in a separate bowl mix eggs, butter, half and half and mayonnaise with a whisk. Add breadcrumbs, parsley, Old Bay seasoning and red pepper. Pour bowl of crab cake filling over the bowl of crab meat and fold gently but thoroughly with a spatula. Form into individual cakes of desired size.

Heat electric frying pan to 325° F using approximately ¼ cup olive oil. Place crab cakes gently into the heated pan, patting to flatten slightly. Fry until golden brown on each side, lowering heat as necessary.

Winning Chowder Challenge Recipe

Chowdah Head Chowder
Chef Eric Aber, Home Grown Café

1 (16-20 ounce) can of clams with juice
2 cups Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) beer
1 whole lemon
3 cups stock
3 slices Brioche bread
2 cups cream
1 cup Shoepeg corn, fresh or frozen
4 cups Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, medium dice
½ pound bacon slab, ½ inch dice
2 tablespoons clarified butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup sweet yellow onion, small dice
1 cup carrot, small dice
1 cup celery, small dice
2 tablespoons chives, minced
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon Old Bay
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric

Drain clams, reserve juice and then marinate the clams with PBR beer and 1 lemon. To do this, squeeze the juice from the lemon then place the rind in with the clams and beer. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

In a thick-bottomed pan, over medium heat, combine ½ of the clam juice with the cream and stock. Trim the crusts from the bread and discard. Add the trimmed bread to the stock mixture along with the corn and 1 cup of the potatoes. Simmer 20 minutes until the potatoes are very tender and the bread is softened. Remove from heat and puree until smooth and relatively thick.

Add the garlic, bacon and butter to a large thick-bottomed stockpot on medium heat and cook for 8-10 minutes to render the bacon. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook for 7-10 minutes on medium heat; do not brown. Reduce heat to low add 3 cups of potatoes and the dry spices then cook for 5 more minutes, stirring gently to prevent potatoes from breaking up.

Discard the lemon rind from the clams. Add the clams with the PBR beer to the vegetable mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes. Add the pureed stock mixture to this and cook over low heat for an additional 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the fresh herbs and adjust the consistency with the remaining clam juice if necessary; otherwise discard or save for other use.

Article by Teresa Messmore

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and courtesy of Doris Hicks

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