Crabby Patties…Ok, Cakes

So I’ve made some crab cakes in my day. I’ve made them pan-fried, I’ve made them on the grill, and I’ve made them broiled. Old Bay, curry, sundried tomato roasted garlic, fresh herbs, smoked paprika, you name it; and I’ve probably used it in a crab cake recipe.

But I haven’t made these crab cakes.


And there’s something about making seafood while you’re actually, you know, at the sea that just seems to make it taste better. Enter Wildwood By-the-Sea: Nostalgia & Recipes, by Anita S. Hirsch, a Christmas gift from my dad last year.


I’ve pretty much spent at least a week in Wildwood, NJ, every year since I’m old enough to remember doing things like trying to eat seashells and feeding the gulls pieces of leftover grilled chicken. And I figure in that time, I’ve tried just about every crab cake on the island.

But I apparently overlooked the deviled crab cakes at Dock Street Seafood, an iconic fish market at Otten’s Harbor, formerly known as Carlson’s. According to the cookbook, the market began life as the Union Fish Market, started by a group of Swedish men. In 1958, the market was purchased by John and Clara Carlson and expanded to include an ice cream shop and takeout seafood department. Rick Hoff and Warren White, one-time employees of the Carlsons, bought the place in 1985 and changed the name to Dock Street Seafood.


The crab cake recipe is one of Grandma Carlson’s, which she used to make for the takeout service at the store. I have to say, I’m always a little wary of anything with the word “deviled” in it when it comes to seafood, even though I know in culinary terms it generally just refers to a dish that is highly seasoned or strongly savory. In practice, though, deviled often seems to equal tons of mayo, which isn’t really my cup of tea.

But these were deviled in the true culinary definition: well-seasoned, savory, and all around delicious.


Mom Mom Carlson’s Deviled Crab Cakes

1 lb lump or backfin crabmeat

12 tablespoons butter

¾ cups unbleached flour

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sherry

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons dried parsley (I used fresh here)

1 teaspoon dried mustard

½ teaspoon onion salt or powder

½ teaspoon garlic salt or powder

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon mayonnaise (I subbed plain Greek yogurt)

cracker meal

beaten egg


oil for frying (I’d recommend peanut or coconut)

Melt butter in pan. Add flour and stir until combined. While still on low heat, add milk slowly, stirring until well combined. Add lemon juice, sherry, Worcestershire sauce and stir well. Add parsley, mustard, and other spices. (From me: throw in a teaspoon of Old Bay here if you dig it.) Continue stirring and heating until thick. Remove from heat and pour over crabmeat. Add mayonnaise (or yogurt) and stir until well combined. Refrigerate, and then shape into cakes. (The smaller the cake, the easier they are to fry. This is not a recipe that lends itself to giant crab cakes.) Dip in cracker meal (or cornmeal), egg, then breadcrumbs and pan fry or deep fry until brown. My advice, as with frying anything, is to work in small batches and used a slotted spatula to slide the cakes onto a paper towel laden plate when you remove them from the pan or fryer.


Figgy Pancakes

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.”– John Gunther

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”– Lewis Carroll

“I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time.’ So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.” Steven Wright

Breakfast, man. Two amazing syllables, one glorious meal. I really can’t say too many good things about breakfast foods in general, mostly because thick-cut bacon, Eggs Florentine, and strawberry waffles have a way of speaking for themselves.

But I did make these pancakes. And they were luscious.


This recipe comes from a particularly awesome source: my friend and fellow journalist/ coobkbook aficionado, Peg McNichol.

More specifically, it comes from a cookbook of her own that Peg is currently working on, tentatively titled,  A Hunk of Butter, and More.

Dude. You had me at butter.

Speaking of, this is what the start to these pancakes looked like:


If there’s a better sound in the morning than butter sizzling, I don’t want to hear it.

And this is what the end result should look like:


This is what Peg has to say about the pancakes:

I like a fussy Sunday breakfast but I want to eat almost immediately. So, I make a huge batch of oatmeal pancakes (I used Bob’s Red Mill oat flour), and then freeze them in advance. Then, I toast the amount I need. No muss, no fuss on a Sunday morning.

I tweak the Bob’s Red Mill recipe by using a combination of rolled, quick cooking and steel-cut oats — I keep a big jar of this mix and use it for all sorts of recipes. You’ll need to add a little extra hot/warm milk and I let it stand a minute longer than the recipe states.

Then layer on the lusciousness:


whipped cream cheese (I soften about 4 ounces with 2-3 tablespoons of milk so it spreads smoothly)

fig jam: (I confess that since this recipe formally introduced me to the wonder that is fig jam, I have been putting on everything, Frank’s Hot Sauce style. Pancakes, peanut butter sandwiches, bagel and pear sandwiches, um…slabs of bacon.)

sliced bananas

Also from Peg: I top with homemade whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I ❤ cinnamon 🙂


A word on the pancakes: Whole Foods’ unexplained failure to stock oat flour among the seriously at least 20 varietals of Bob’s Red Mill products led to me tweaking my own roughly hewn formula for oatmeal pancakes.

½ cup of rolled oats

1-22 eggs

1 to 2 TBS whole wheat flour

¼ cup of plain Greek yogurt or kefir

½ very ripe banana

1 TBS chia seeds

2 TBS buckwheat honey/ brown sugar, raw sugar, whatever sweetness you choose

Then my favorite part: throw everything into a blender and push buttons. This is a basic formula, just keep adding wet or dry ingredients till you get a consistency that seems somewhat pancake batter-y.

Ok, I lied. The part with the sizzling butter is actually my favorite part. Coconut oil also works. Just sizzle, pour, wait for the tiny batter bubbles that stay bubbly, flip, smush, and remove. Layer and enjoy!

Another Roast Chicken Recipe

So everyone has a favorite roast chicken recipe. In fact, a quick google search for those four words yields more than 5 million results. “Perfect roast chicken recipe” is another popular search combo. Emeril’s got one. Ina Garten’s got one. Apparently, Glamour’s got one guaranteed to get you hitched (although that’s asking a bit too much of your chicken, if you ask me). Everyone is well versed on the favorite chicken recipes associated with Jamie Oliver (lots of milk) and Julia Child. Some people even collect roast chicken recipes. There’s probably a lot of reasons behind the ubiquitousness of chicken roasting instructions across the internets. Obviously, it’s delicious, but when it comes out too dry or rubbery, it can be less delicious. And while chicken recipes themselves have has been Google darlings for some time now, roast chicken is more of a time investment than a couple of chicken breasts slathered in whatever sauce. 2015-04-02 20.07.14 And without further fanfare, I give you my favorite roast chicken recipe. This one comes from Kitchen Counter Cooking School, by Kathleen Flinn. DSC00368 I must have read this book at least three times through, because it’s that interesting. (Which, coincidentally, is probably at least eight times less than I’ve used the roast chicken recipe, both of which I think are hallmarks of a successful cookbook.) Flinn, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, takes on the challenge of using what she’s learned about preparing fine food to guide aspiring home cooks, many of whom default to pre-packaged and frozen dinners, through their kitchens. By the end of the book, even the students who seem the most intimidating by the notion of preparing a meal from scratch are whipping up homemade gnocchi. But the chicken. DSC00349 I often think that the best recipes out there are not so much instructions as they are formulas that invite you to inject your own improvisation and personality. That’s my favorite part of this recipe. It’s a super solid formula that’s difficult to screw up and easy to adapt with whatever ingredients you’re feeling that day or happen to have on hand. A few weeks ago I made this with some salsa verde and grass-fed butter, and it turned out beautifully. Your Basic Roasted Chicken Preheat the oven to 425 F. Mix up some flavorings. Remove the giblets from inside the chicken cavity. Gently ease your fingers under the chicken’s skin to separate it form the bird, creating a cavity across the top of the breast and around the legs. Shove your flavoring under the skin. Smear a bit over the top and generously season the skin with coarse salt and ground pepper. (I also like to drizzle a little briny something over the top when I do this, like worcestershire sauce or soy sauce, depending on what goes with your under-the-skin goodies.) If you want to, tie the legs together with some string, this will help the bird keep its shape and cook evenly. (I never have string.) The larger the bird, the longer it will take to roast. Depending on your oven and your bird, a standard 3-pound chicken will take about an hour; allow 10 minutes for each additional half pound. After half an hour, baste it by using a spoon, pastry brush, or bulb-style baster to collect the juices form the pan to moisten the skin. If desired, turn the chicken over for the last 20 minutes of cooking. Baste again. (Do this. The all-over golden crispy color rocks.) See if it’s done. The best method is to insert an instant read thermometer into the thigh meat and again into the breast, avoiding bones. It should read close to 180 F, but double check by pulling the thigh away. If the juices that ooze out are clear, it’s done. If they are pink, baste the chicken again and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Repeat as needed. Let your chicken rest for a few minutes before serving.

Loc Lac

This one comes to you courtesy of my first trip to Southeast Asia. (Stay tuned for some Laotian recipes further on down the road.)  I considered it a mission to snag one cookbook from each country (Cambodia and Laos) but ended up spending way too much of my souvenir budget on this gem: 2015-04-01 18.36.11

Mostly because of the gorgeous food pictures. From Lotus Editions, Cambodia.

I tried the recipe for Loc Lac, which I saw on nearly every menu during my visit but never tried because OMG the fish amok was my jam. Then again, steaming pretty much anything in a fresh coconut shell has to make it better, right? Anyway, the Loc Lac was tasty and super easy for a weeknight dinner. I think it would make a great dinner for a hot summer day when fresh veggies are lurking around your kitchen and you don’t want to mess with the stove for too long.

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Here’s the recipe (with conversions):


1 pound (roughly) beef  sirloin or filet

6 tbs oil

1 tbs sugar 2 cloves garlic, minced

1 english cucumber, chopped

1 tomato chopped

pinch of pepper

1 carrot

hot sauce and lemon squeezes

1. cut the meat into squares about the size of your thumbnail (I didn’t do this)

2. Mix the meat with the sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and pepper and let marinate for 15 minutes (or longer if you have time)

3. High the oil in a skillet over medium high heat and brown the garlic.

4. Saute the meat for about 3 minutes and arrange in the center of the chopped veggies.

5. Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce

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3 tbs fish sauce

1 tbs oyster sauce

1/2 onion diced roughly

Split Pea Soup-er

I have to start this one off with some honesty: I have sort of a natural aversion to split pea soup that I’ve never quite been able to explain. I mean sure, it’s the only soup that happens to be singled out as the one foodstuff we associate with demonic possession, but that doesn’t seem like a good reason to blame the soup. I think it’s more traceable back to my lifetime phobia of dark, shrouded figures. I’ve always been terrified of any shadowy figure whose face I can’t see. Hated the Scream movies. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come from A Christmas Carol? I watch that scene with my eyes closed.

And I file split pea soup in that category. I know tons of people love it, but it just seems to lack the openness and transparency of a nice chicken noodle or a Manhattan clam chowder. What is it concealing in its thick, verdant folds? Sure, it could be diced ham…or marbles. It could be anything. What, exactly, does split pea soup have to hide?

2015-03-30 19.09.13

This is probably why, until last month, it never occurred to me to make split pea soup. But once I got to thinking about it, and realized I’d never tried making it, it suddenly became unchartered territory, giving it instant allure. Maybe I would gain a better understanding of pea soup and what the fuss is all about. Maybe pea soup and I could be friends. Plus, I would get to use a whole ham hock, and I’ll pretty much cook anything that justifies use of a whole ham hock.

For the recipe, I turned to my Joy of Cooking. My copy, which belonged to my aunt, is very neatly bound in a pretty floral wrapping, but it’s the 1964 edition. According to the joykitchen website, this is the first edition of the classic cookbook that Marion Rombauer revised without the help of her mother, Irma, who suffered a series of strokes beginning in 1955. The Rombauer family collectively has published eight separate editions of Joy of Cooking.

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The Joy of Cooking’s got a pretty storied history. Rombauer spent more than a year following her husband’s death channeling her grief into assembling a collection of favorite recipes, according to the website. In those days, most American cookbooks were penned by dieticians or cooking school grads, but Rombauer was neither, yet she filled a niche that ended up guiding scores of home cooks.

From the website: A complete amateur with no official credentials, she nonetheless knew that neophyte cooks somehow learn faster in the company of a friend. This small, chic, witty, and immensely forceful woman appointed herself that friend.

I’ve always found this book to be a sort of workhorse cookbook. It doesn’t strike the chords of inspiration in the same way as Silver Palate’s fancy menus and pithy food quotes. But if you really need to know how to make a batch of fresh tamales or how one goes about cooking up an eel, it’s there for you.

And that being said, the split pea soup recipe turned out beautifully. Split pea soup and I, for the moment, are getting along quite nicely.

2015-03-30 19.09.13

Split Pea or Lentil Soup

Wash and soak: 2 cups split peas. I did a quick boil (boil 10 minutes, soak for an hour in the boiling liquid.)

Drain the water, reserving the liquid. Add enough water to the reserved liquid to make 10 cups. (I used beef stock for this.) Add peas back in, cook for 21/2 to 3 hours with:

A turkey carcass, a ham bone, or a 2-inch cube of salt pork

Add the following and simmer and covered, for ½ hour longer until tender:

½ cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery with leaves

½ cup chopped carrots (I made mine a full cup because I’m neurotic and hate with when my celery to carrot ratio is out of whack)

1 clove garlic

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon thyme

dash cayenne pepper or a pod of red pepper

Remove bones or carcass, Put soup through a sieve. Chill and skim grease.            Melt 2 tablespoons butter or soup fat and stir in 2 tablespoons flour. Add a little of the soup mixture and heat through before adding contents back to soup pot.

Silver Lemons…Or, When Life Gives You Lemons…

You can make chicken.

lemon chicken

And you can make cake, too!

lemon cake

Welcome to my blog, which, in case the name doesn’t give it away, is mostly about food, a little bit about books, and apparently, today, all about lemons. Since food and reading are quite possibly two of my most favorite activities on the planet, I plan to use this space to explore the pages of as many cookbooks as I can get my hands on, ranging from my favorite classics to historical cookbooks, diner cookbooks, cookbooks I find gathering dust in the bargain section of used bookstores, and everything in between.

For my initial post, however, it had to be Silver Palate.


(That copy technically belongs to my mom. After years of surreptitiously sneaking it off the shelf and into my suitcase, hoping its absence would not be discovered, only to get caught when she needed the Decadent Chocolate Cake recipe, I bought her the 2007 Silver Palate Deluxe edition. It has new recipes, full color spreads, and most importantly, freed up the older copy to conveniently fall into my clutches.)

I’ve spent years going back and re-reading this iconic collection of recipes, written by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso and first published in 1982, cover-to-cover, nearly as many times as I’ve re-read the Harry Potter series. It is beautifully crafted food prose, years before food blogs became a thing.

Just check out what the Silver Palate ladies have to say about stew:

            “Stews are forgiving food, easygoing and open to improvisation and substitution. They also reduce pressure in the kitchen, since stews are nearly always made a day or two in advance of serving. The finished product, long simmered and rich-flavored, is always a crowd pleaser. Stew says something special to your guests; they feel welcomed, comforted, nourished.”


I promise not to gush this much about most of the cookbooks I write about, but this one’s pretty special. Sure, in its hollandaise stained pages are the recipes I used to make my first dinner for the fam, my first meal for myself in my first apartment, and my first “real” cake, so it’s got loads of sentimental value. But beyond being a great cooking teacher (probably my best cooking teacher, next to my mom!), I find that a quick skim of Silver Palate inspires me to cook.

Take, for example, this sidebar on lemons:


The lemon chicken recipe, which I recently tried out for the first time, makes a fantastic weeknight dinner, since you marinate it during the day and then fry it up for a few seconds and pop it in the oven. And I’m intrigued by their suggestion of packing it for a picnic. Cold, crunchy fried chicken is my jam.

Here is the recipe, with my adaptations to cut the portions from 6 to 3 servings.

1 chicken, cut into quarters, or at least a pound of bone-in chicken thighs

1 cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked)

½ teaspoon fresh black pepper

¼ cup vegetable or coconut oil (for frying)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/8 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon lemon extract

2 lemons sliced paper thin

  1. Combine chicken parts and lemon juice in a bowl just large enough to hold them comfortably. Cover and marinate in the refridgerator overnight, turning occasionally.
  2. Drain chicken thoroughly and pat dry. Fill a plastic bag (or a bowl) with flour, salt, paprika and black pepper, and shake well to mix. Coat chicken completely in mixture.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven until hot and fry chicken pieces until browned and crisp.
  5. Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large, shallow baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with lemon zest and brown sugar. Whisk stock and lemon extract together (I threw in a little white wine for good measure) and pour around chicken pieces. Set a thin lemon slice on top of each piece.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender.
  7. Eat perfectly crispy, lemony chicken!

The cake I made last weekend for my mother’s birthday, and it was awesome. Super buttery and with an intense lemony burst to each bite that reminded me of really, really good key lime pie.

Glazed Lemon Cake

½ pound sweet butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 tightly packed tablespoons lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
  3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. (Or, if you have patience issues, like me, mix everything together all at once, cross your fingers, and hope for the best.) Add lemon juice and zest.
  4. Pour batter into greased cake pan (The recipe calls for a tube pan, but I used a regular old rectangular one.) Set on middle rack of oven and bake for 50 minutes to one hour and 5 minutes, or until cake pulls away form sides and you can poke a tester into the middle and have it come out clean.
  5. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then frost while it’s still warm with this:

Lemon Icing

1 pound powdered sugar

8 tablespoons butter, softened

3 tightly packed tablespoons lemon zest

½ cup fresh lemon juice

Cream sugar, butter thoroughly, mix in lemon zest and juice, ice (and eat) cake.