Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Crab Cakes with Harissa Aioli and Tunisian Corn with Sweet Sticky Rice and Harissa Sauce
There's something so warm, so diverse about North African cuisine. Though there are common base ingredients in American cooking - fish, meat, grains - the flavors are nothing close. At least not to your average meal. I'm not a huge fan of cinnamon, for instance, but when ground down with paprika, cumin and coriander onto a nice cut of beef, it's mind blowing.
For my part, I often build meals around a single ingredient or something specific I want to see on my plate. In this case, I've been craving Harissa, a common hot chili sauce found in North African cooking. That was the starting point, and also knowing that I wanted crab cakes.
That was a little tougher for me, because I seriously doubt North Africans eat crab cakes. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong, but it just didn't sound common. But, that's what's happening up in my house...Harissa and Crab cakes!
And you can't have a good crab cake without aioli, can you? I like to tie my dishes together with a common thread. Often it's just garlic or tomato or something like that. But, in this case, I felt the Harissa presented a nice, strong connector. Harissa aioli? Why not?
As it came together, I recalled seeing an image of a crab cake atop some vegetables formed through a round. To be honest, I didn't really feel like having a vegetable. I also needed to consider texture and I wanted something unique - unexpected. So, I opted for corn over sticky rice.
There you have it.
1 pound crab meat (I used claw meat from a can, but you can use any good quality crab, not imitation).
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup mayo
2 Tbs fresh herbs, chopped (I used rosemary, basil, Italian parsley, and thyme)
salt and pepper
Mix everything except panko together, leaving the crab lumps intact. Form balls and roll them in panko. Remove to baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out in panko again and pan fry in olive oil a few minutes per side. Medium-high heat, light film of oil.
Make your Harissa first. Then add a little bit at a time for taste to some mayo. I also push 2-3 cloves of garlic through a press and into the aioli. I'm a huge fan of garlic, so you might want 1 clove. Squeeze a bit of lemon and mix to a nice consistency.
Heat on medium some olive oil and throw in 1 diced onion. Stir for 5 minutes, then add an equal amount of corn. Push 3 cloves garlic through a press. Stir mixture and cook for 5 minutes. Grind down equal parts of paprika, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and caraway seed. Add salt and pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Stir this into the mixture. Cook another 5 minutes, then add 1-2 Tbs tomato paste. Stir and cook another 5 minutes. At the last minute or so, add in a Tbs of Harissa.
Sweet Sticky Rice:
I used Japanese sticky rice. Soak it for 1 hour. Line a steaming basket with banana leaves. Spoon the rice onto the leaves and steam for 20 minutes. Open, and pour on 1 Tbs sugar and 1 tsp Harissa. Stir and steam another couple of minutes. Ready to eat.
I don't know why I saved this for last, since you need it for all the other parts, but oh well. There are many ways to make Harissa. Try this one:
1 large jar of roasted red peppers, drained, placed in a blender or processor
2-3 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic through a press
ground cumin, coriander and caraway. crushed red pepper or cayenne
Some juice from a lemon
Blend and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
You can see from my picture how I prepared this dish. I think the crab cakes work well stacked on or against something. Think about the textures.