Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes from Chef Mary Ellen Rae at Personal Touch Gourmet

by Lynne on August 30, 2014

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I went to my first cooking class taught by Chef Mary Ellen Rae in April of 2010. My photos of her delicious recipes have been pinned and stumbled thousands of times, especially the Chicken, Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Wrapped in Filo. So when Chef Mary Ellen recently invited me to a class she was teaching, which inclued her menu, I replied,”You had me at Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes!” How did she know crab cakes are one of my very favorite things?

Chef Mary Ellen graduated at the top of her class with high honors from the “Le Cordon Bleu” program of the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. Her culinary internship was at the Los Angeles Times Food Section and test kitchen. After culinary school, she started Personal Touch Gourmet, a boutique catering company specializing in small intimate parties, freelance recipe testing and cooking classes around the South Bay and Los Angeles.

Several years later a call from the Los Angeles times beckoned her back into the test kitchen with the position of “recipe tester.” This included sourcing, shopping, preparing, testing and editing the recipes published in the weekly Food Section. Mary Ellen had the opportunity to write articles and develop many of her own recipes for publication, several winning “Top Ten Recipe of the Year Awards.”

In 2007, after four years of commuting downtown, she left the paper and decided it would be great to run her own life again. She teaches private classes in your home, either one-on-one or group parties, a great way to celebrate birthdays, bridal showers or special celebrations. And, of course, the participation cooking classes, such as the one I attended.

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Chef Mary Ellen started her class by going over the recipes in detail, and then a pair of students was assigned to cook each recipe. There were several couples who came to class for a date night and they were having a lot of fun with this.

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In order to stave off hunger and fainting while everyone was cutting and chopping, Chef Mary Ellen had this beautiful Kalamata Olive & Roasted Cherry Tomato Tapenade with Burrata and Garlic Toasts on the sideboard for noshing. Ok, I admit, I visited it a few times myself.

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Each student had a cutting board and knife provided and everyone got busy preparing their recipe, while I went around taking photos of everything.

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Chef Mary Ellen demonstrated how to form the crab mixture into cakes so they kept their shape, but were not packed too solidly together. Everyone took turns making a crab cake or two for practice and then into the skillet they went. They turned such a beautiful crusty brown. Yum. High anticipation on my part….

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Meanwhile the vegetables, which had been marinating in an olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, rosemary, thyme and garlic vinaigrette, were put on the grill. The New York Steaks were also put on and the gentleman at the helm of this job wanted me to shoot the digital thermometer so my readers could see that they were perfectly cooked.

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Chef Mary Ellen serves her dishes family-style, beautifully presented on raised platforms covered with cloths in muted colors. Here you can see the Mixed Green Salad and Fresh Peaches with Creamy Feta Vinaigrette.

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The Grilled Summer Vegetables with Garlic and Fresh Herbs was not only marinated in the red wine and lemon juice vinaigrette, but this same vinaigrette was drizzled over the lightly charred veggies just before serving.

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The New York Steaks were served with a slice of Truffle Chive Butter, which was made with unsalted butter, jarred truffle butter, grated Parmesan, minced chives and Italian parsley. Doesn’t that look mouth wateringly scrumptious?

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And, of course, the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, served with Jalapeno Crema topped with a pinch of Micro-Greens (recipe follows below). Chef Mary Ellen suggested that if you cannot find fresh crab meat, she found Chicken of the Sea pasteurized crab meat in the refrigerated case at Costco. And those cute little micro greens came from Trader Joe’s. I have been looking everywhere for micro greens, so I was really happy to find out where I could get them. Yay!

Dessert was Grilled Santa Rosa Plums with Mint Sugar, which was served over vanilla ice cream. Mint Sugar, which is made by grinding fresh mint and sugar together in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, is sprinkled over the plums encased in their foil wrapper. Grand Marnier was poured over, foil was sealed and the whole packages were put on grill pans. You could also cook these on your BBQ grill for 5-7 minutes. The result is soft minty plums with a delectable orangy sauce. You want some of this. I know you do.

Chef Mary Ellen’s next cooking class is Tuesday, October 21st and will feature Cooking with Fall Flavors. You can go to her website, Personal Touch Gourmet, for a look at all the services she offers, list of classes, sign up for a class and photos. Check it out. Take a class. You’ll be so happy you did!

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Print Recipe Print Recipe

Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Jalapeno Cilantro Crema

Makes about 10 cakes

Crab Cakes
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 shallot, finely minced
½ cup small diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons jalapeno, seeded and finely diced

16 ounces lump crabmeat
½ cup Japanese Panko
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup mayonnaise, or more as needed
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons minced chives
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup Japanese Panko
2 tablespoons Parmesan

3 tablespoons canola oil

Jalapeno Crema (recipe below)
Garnish: Micro greens

1. Heat 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons oil. When oil is hot, add shallot, red pepper and jalapeno, and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

2. Place crabmeat on paper towels to drain.  Stir together cooked vegetables, ½ cup panko, beaten egg, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, cilantro, chives, salt and pepper. If mixture is dry, add additional mayo. If too moist, add additional panko.

3. Form mixture into 10-12 (2-inch) cakes. Press hands so mixture holds together, but do not pack.

4. Place 2 cups panko and 2 tablespoons Parmesan in shallow bowl and stir to mix. Coat each cake in panko to coat and set aside.

5. Wipe out skillet and add 3 tablespoons oil; heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, add 4-5 cakes, being careful not to crowd. Cook until lightly browned, flip and brown other side. They should take 3-4 minutes per side. Remove to paper towels, then to platter.

6. To serve, spoon a dollop of crema on top of each cake and a pinch of micro-greens.

Jalapeno Crema
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon jalapeno, seeded, finely diced
1 cup mayonnaise

1. Place ingredients in blender and process until smooth.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy Polwig August 31, 2014 at 9:33 am

Looks Amazing. I really want to make that fresh peach salad. It is not noon here yet and I am starving, thank you

Ashley @ QLCC September 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm

So jealous of all this incredible food! Especially the crab cakes, I’ve been dyyying for good seafood since I moved to Texas!

Cathy | She Paused 4 Thought September 6, 2014 at 7:27 pm

I was just looking for a crab cake recipe and this one looks fabulous. Thanks for the tip about crab meat at Costco. Do you think I could use Greek yogurt instead of mayo?

Lynne September 6, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Hi Cathy ~ I think you could use yogurt in place of the mayo; however, mayo has an acid note, so you may want to add some lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice and maybe a pinch of dry mustard, onion and garlic powder to your mixture. I might also start off with less yogurt than the recipe calls for, adding more if needed for the final texture. Lynne xo

Geez Louise! September 16, 2014 at 10:06 am

Hi Lynne, how are you? Lovely pictures, she is lucky to have you around! Hope you are well. xoxo Louise

Lentil Breakdown September 27, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Wow, those photos are drop-dead gorgeous! I’m surprised I’m still alive to finish this sentence!

Myra October 25, 2015 at 10:56 am

These look fabulous! How much of this recipe can be made ahead of time? I’m assuming that if the crab cakes are completely made and refrigerated beforehand, the panko-parmesan coating would get soft or mushy? Can’t wait to make and serve at my next dinner party!

Lynne October 25, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Hi Myra ~ At Mary Ellen’s class the crab cakes were made about 1 hour ahead of time, including the breading, and held at room temperature. Panko, with its rice base, doesn’t seem to absorb much liquid and the cakes became quite crispy during cooking. I think the crab cake mixture could be made several hours ahead of time, portioned out with an ice cream scoop and held, covered, in the fridge. When ready to cook, roll each in the panko and then into the frying pan. I would love to know how these turned out for you. Thanks for letting me know. Lynne xo

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