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Cocktail Crab Cakes

Some people may look at this list of ingredients and assume it's long and complicated. Please stop and look again, you likely have everything you need to make crab cakes with the exception of crab and a small can of chipotle for the sauce.

These are so good you may just end up standing over your stove and eating them as they come out of the pan. The only technical part of this recipe is frying the cakes and knowing when to flip. Make sure your oil isn't so hot that it spatters when you place the crab cake in. I've included lots of tips and tricks to ensure your success. I'm confident you can make these!

Note that 8 ounces of lump crab meat will roughly give you 10 mini crab cakes. Scale up the recipe as needed.

Crab cakes:

1 large egg, beaten

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2-4 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, divided (Use fresh breadcrumbs or other store-bought breadcrumbs as a substitute)

1 tablespoon Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced (this is not a deal-breaker if you don't have it)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I like Grey Poupon Country Dijon Mustard)

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over (Crab claw meat is a less expensive substitute)

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup of vegetable or canola oil, plus more if needed

Chipotle Aioli:

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

3 tablespoons sour cream (I like to substitute Greek yogurt)

1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)

2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon lime juice

The amount of Panko you add will depend on the juiciness of the crabmeat. Start with just 2 tablespoons. If the cakes will not hold together once you have mixed everything, add more Panko, 1 tablespoon at a time.

FOR THE CRAB CAKES: In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg with a fork or a whisk. Add mayo, 2 tablespoons of Panko, parsley, dijon, Old Bay, and salt. Mix these ingredients together first, then lastly add the crab meat to the mayo mixture and fold together gently with a rubber spatula, taking care not to break up the lumps of crab. The mixture will be wet, but you do want it to hold its shape and not ooze through your fingers. Add more Panko if needed.

This optional step is for checking the seasoning of the crab cakes. Heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add 1 tablespoon of the crab cake mixture. Cook until the crab cake is golden brown, flipping once with a fish spatula, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove the crab cake from the skillet and allow it to cool slightly. Taste the cooked crab cake, and then adjust the seasoning with salt and old bay. Repeat the process as necessary - or until all your crab cakes are gone. Just kidding.

Line a plate or baking sheet with parchment paper. Using moistened hands, gently form the mixture into 10 cakes, each 1-1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. You should get around 10 two-bite cakes. Place each finished cake on the baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes to help them "set." (The cakes can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE: While the cakes are chilling, combine all the aioli ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and add more of whatever you like. I usually add MORE of the adobo from the can of chipotles and more lime juice. Cover and refrigerate so the ingredients can fall in love and get married, at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.

TO FINISH THE CRAB CAKES: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place a rack in the center. Line a baking sheet with a double thickness of paper towels. Once the cakes are fried, we will place them on the paper towels to absorb excess oil and they can "hold" in the low-warm oven while we fry the second batch.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large, preferably nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.

Put the flour in a pie dish or shallow bowl. Lightly dredge half of the crab cakes, knocking off the excess.

Gently place the floured crab cakes in the skillet, leaving 1-inch of space around each. Pan fry until the outside is crisp and brown, 1 to 2 minutes. (Flour the remaining cakes while the first batch is browning.)

Using a spatula, (and I like to use two spatulas or a spatula and a fork to help carefully flip without letting it flop) flip the patties and pan-fry until the second side is crisp and brown, 1 to 2 more minutes. Transfer the finished cakes to the baking sheet lined with paper towels and lightly season with salt. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven to keep the crab cakes warm for up to 20 minutes.

Repeat the process with the remaining crab cakes, adding more oil if necessary.

TO SERVE: Garnish the crab cakes with a dollop of the aioli and serve immediately.

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