Here’s another thing a lot of people don’t know about me. I’m actually not that bad of a cook. Now, I don’t particularly enjoy cooking — particularly if I have to do it regularly — but every once in a while, given the chance, I’ll venture into the kitchen and make myself dinner.
My first real exposure to cooking regularly was in college when I felt obligated to use the best freaking kitchen I’d ever seen while staying in an off-campus apartment. I would regularly make dinner for myself, which would generally consist of some form of chicken breast, ground beef or ramen noodles (because I was poor, you see).
Rarely did I venture out of this comfort zone. Oh sure, I tried to make pancakes a couple different times — I had to get creative both times thanks to a lack of vegetable oil, butter, a pan and a spatula the first time and an absence of… what’s the opposite of rotten? … eggs the second — but I was rarely awake early enough for that to become an issue (or a skill).
Another issue that arose was that I shared the apartment with three other people, and even though I was the one who used the kitchen the most, they’d want to at least have the option of heating up their taquitos in a timely fashion. The nerve. Understandable. Obviously, this isn’t the type of arrangement that’d lend itself to spending all day babying that roast.
So I had to keep it simple. Chicken fingers, lo mein, hamburgers, tacos, pasta dishes, and stuff like that. I’d have to wait for those rare weekends when everybody went home before I tried to make something the least bit complex. Usually, though, I’d wind up sleeping until about 5, have my window of opportunity close, and then try to make it up to myself by preparing baked goods instead.
I had to move out of that apartment in June 2006, and since then, I’ve rarely tried to cook an elaborate meal. The cooking facilities offered to me in my on-campus apartment during senior year weren’t quite up to the standard I was used to. When I went home, the kitchen was similarly old, shitty and worn out. There was simply no way I could cook under these conditions.
Fast-forward to Sunday, May 24, 2008. I had held out long enough. Clearly, the conditions weren’t going to get any better any time soon, and I just had to bite the bullet and try my darnedest to make my recipe for Crab Cakes with Buerre Blanc sauce work in this glorified Third World kitchen. (I know, I know. There are children in Third World countries who would kill for this type of antiquated cooking equipment.)
So I made sure to set my alarm for 1 p.m. sharp, and, once I awakened, I rolled out of bed, threw on the most flammable clothing I could find, and was on my way to Pathmark!
Now, I’m not going to regale you with the play-by-play of my trip to the food store, but I thought it might be nice to allow my readers to play along at home, so to speak. So, in order to prepare crab cakes with buerre blanc just as I do, you’ll need the following:
- 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup mashed potatoes
- 1 large peeled, halved lemon
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 pound butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
- aloe vera gel, as needed
- 2 cups flour
- 3 large eggs
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- vegetable oil, as needed
- 1 fire extinguisher
Some New York Times hardcores may think they recognize this recipe, and let me just say that I’d say that I get that all the time had ever tried to make these before. But if you look closer, there are some subtle, yet very important differences in terms of the ingredients we use. For example, the Times recipe features scallions, whereas I could not find them at the store. Also, they recommend including hot sauce in the buerre blanc sauce, whereas I’m like, “Fuckin’ liberals!”
All right, so now that you have all of the items listed above, it’s TIME TO MAKE DINNER, BITCH!
Again, because of the similarities in my recipe and the New York Times one, the very same hardcores might recognize some of the verbiage spewed forth from my fingers. It’s called a fucking coincidence.
A. Wash your hands. (You won’t find that in the Times!)
B. In a large bowl, combine crab meat, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, black pepper, kosher salt and mashed potatoes. Violently swirl the combination about. Using an large spoon and the edge of your hand, create seven large cakes and place on a baking sheet or large plate. Refrigerate during arduous third step.
C. Drop lemon halves into a small saucepan — whatever the hell that is. Wait for lemons to begin dissolving before adding wine. Bring to a boil over high heat, then allow to simmer over medium heat. Now add cream and again lower heat. Wait five minutes. You may use this time to leave the house and retrieve a neighbor’s mail, as everything is sure to be in order when you return. If your home or apartment has stairs, this is the perfect time for a quick workout.
When you return, whisk in chopped butter a few pieces at a time. Keep doing this until you’re fresh out. Then bust out a strainer and make sure those nasty pits and lemon skins haven’t snuck into your final product. (Note: You should place another bowl below the strainer to catch final product.)
Leave sauce laying around while advancing to step D. You can always re-heat the sauce later.
D. For frying: Line up three bowls. Place flour in one, eggs and milk in the second and bread crumbs in the third. Bust out a fork and go to town on contents of bowl number two. Become fed up that you didn’t just whisk the eggs first and then add the milk. Make mental note never to make same mistake again. Pat crab cakes into thick disks, like oversize scallops. Dip each into flour mixture, then egg mixture, then roll in bread crumbs. Set on a plate and chill for 30 minutes.
E. Place a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in enough oil to potentially burn your house down. When oil shimmers, add crab cakes. If oil does not shimmer after a half hour, stick your least valued finger in the oil to confirm that heating is taking place. Failing burns, crank that sumbitch up as far as you can. Wait two minutes.
Place first crab cake in boiling oil. Wait five seconds until first side is fried and turn cake. Wait five more seconds and remove from scalding oil onto paper towel. After allowing time for oil to be absorbed, sample first crab cake. Take your time to enjoy it — that oil ain’t gettin’ any colder.
F. Notice flames shooting from skillet. Remark to self, “Well, that was unexpected.” Continue eating crab cake until you deem the situation an emergency.
G. When situation becomes emergency, scramble to find nearest fire extinguisher. (Note: It’s never where you expect it to be, because your damn kids are probably using it to try to get high.) Once extinguisher is located, rush over to burning pan filled with oil and extinguish the flames. Be careful to aim away from the food, as you’ll need to be eating that later. Once fire is out, remark “crisis averted” and resume eating first crab cake.
H. When flame reignites, make borderline offensive remark about Hannukah coming early. Again extinguish flame, because it worked so well the first time. Once fire is out, cleverly relocate the pot of burning oil to an inactive burner.
I. When oil reignites a third time, extinguish it and then attempt to remove the pan from your home. (Some folks might tell you this is a bad idea, but those same folks also advocate rolling around in grease to keep yourself from burning.) Act fast, or the oil will explode while you’re carrying it. If this happens to you, think fast by dropping the pan onto the ground and overturning it with your foot.
J. Continue to stomp the area around the floor-smothered fire until your pants begin to burn. This tends to occur the moment you victoriously declare “That should do it!” Once you are no longer on fire, recover the pan and hurl it as far as you can out the back door, preferably into a neighbor’s yard.
K. Wait for smoke filling your home to subside, then begin cleaning up spilled oil. You might also take this time to turn off the stove.
L. If you have suffered burns, walk to a nearby drug store and ask a pharmacist what over-the-counter product he or she would recommend for someone who just suffered grease burns. For effect, you should not change the clothing you were wearing when the fire occurred.
M. Once the pharmacist has concluded his 10 minute speech on burn theory, just grab something with aloe in it and get the hell out of there.
N. Once home, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place remaining crab cakes into oven and bake until golden brown on one side. Flip cakes and continue to cook until other side is golden brown. You may also take this opportunity to re-heat the sauce you prepared earlier.
When both sides are golden brown, remove from oven and allow cakes to sit for five minutes on paper towels. Serve with vegetable of your choosing.
Total Preparation Time: About Five Hours
Total Cost: About 20 Dollars Excluding Medical Bills and Home Damage