Warm crab cakes are tasty by themselves, or with a little dipping sauce. However, sometimes you want to dress things up and change your style. Doing that doesn't have to mean you spend a lot of extra time or money to show your family how much you care. Think about what your family has told you they like about your crab cakes in the past, or what they wish you would change. If you keep that in mind, it's easy to find new ideas to refresh those tired old crab cakes.
Cucumber and Carrot Crunch
For some crunch, layer some thinly sliced cucumber on top of your crab cakes. Anchor the cucumber in place with a little dipping sauce or creamy salad dressing. If you don't like the way slices look, grate the cucumber instead. Add grated carrot to the cucumber for extra color and flavor, then pile little heaps of veggie confetti on top of your crab cakes. If you're feeling fancy, add a sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley on top. Cold cucumbers and carrots will make your crab cakes cold and soggy if the appetizer is prepared too far in advance.
Crab Cake Sandwiches
Crab cakes almost suggest a sandwich, just by how they look. Choose a sturdy, flavorful loaf of bread that you think would go well with the flavor of your crab cakes. Then use an upside-down round glass to cut small circles out of the slices of bread. Dab a little dipping sauce or creamy dressing on the bread, then add a decorative leafy piece of lettuce and your crab cake to serve before the main course. Don't prepare the sandwiches too far in advance, or they'll get soggy.
Crab Cake Cups
If you've got miniature crab cakes, you can make them even simpler -- and arguably more fun -- for your family to eat. Buy some miniature phyllo pastry cups next time you're at the grocery story. They're usually found in the freezer section, near the frozen desserts and pie crusts. Defrost the phyllo cups before you're going to use them; follow the directions on the box for defrosting. Some phyllo cups come prebaked, while others are raw; bake according to package directions if you buy raw ones. Right before you're going to serve them, spoon a little creamy peppercorn dressing into the bottom of each cup, then pop the crab cake on top of them. It's a one-bite appetizer that your family can eat with their hands -- no spoons, forks or even plates required. Like the crab cake sandwiches, don't prepare these too far in advance, or the phyllo cups won't be crispy.
Crab Cake Lettuce Wraps
Choose a crisp, flavorful lettuce that bends easily to wrap your crab cakes. Romaine is a poor choice, because it's so stiff. Boston lettuce, red or green leafy lettuces, or even oak leaf or similar lettuces make a flavorful counterpoint to the crab cakes. Spread creamy Parmesan dressing on a cold leaf of lettuce, then wrap it around the warm crab cake. As with the other appetizers, serve these immediately so the lettuce stays cold and the crab cakes stay hot.
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- "The Professional Chef," The Culinary Institute of America; 2006
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