Crab Cakes on Brioche Buns with Asian Slaw

24 Aug



Butter will be the death of us, folks.

See, people have this idea that baking is an art.  That artisan (that’s real artisans, not the word some marketing fucks at Panera decided to put in front of every item on the menu) people passed down croissant-making techniques for decades and guarded them with their lives like they were the secret formula to Pepsi or something.  I’m not gonna dispute that those people know what they’re doing, because they very clearly do.  The chances that one of them can make a palmier better than me are infinitely high; that much is obvious.

But at its core, at the very heart of it, super-fancy baking is dumb and simple.  It’s a butter and sugar fueled power orgy, more Tim Allen than Martha Stewart.  Ever notice how the fancier your pastries get, the more flaky and sugary and layery they get?  That’s not art, that’s volume.  That’s someone saying “well shit, one of these is good, why not pile 100 of them on at once?”

Technique-wise, baking is every bit as dainty and majestic as those guided wine-filled tours in France would have you believe.  But conceptually, it’s nothing but brute force and numbers.  It doesn’t happen because of a bolt of inspiration, it’s because somebody went into caveman mode and thought I LIKE BOTH OF THESE THINGS I NEED THEM BOTH IN MY MOUTH AT ONCE.  MARGE GET THE BUTTER, THIS IS HOW I WANT TO DIE.  THIS IS MY VALHALLA.

And then, there’s the crab cake.  Someone took a food almost exclusively associated with butter and decided to cram it into a patty and add bread crumbs.  Nothing says “instant myocardial infarction” like taking something already unhealthy and trying to make it resemble a fucking cake as much as possible.  Add the gigantic bun and usual accompaniment of tartar sauce, and you’ve got a sandwich fit for the lobby of a morgue.

Did I see all this and turn the other way, make a vegan raw green bean salad thing, and call it a day?  Of course not.  You know me too well for that.  I put a giant crab cake on a giant buttery slab of bread and added other stuff.

Sweet, buttery death, I’ll see you at my doorstep.

Here’s what you need:

Brioche Buns:

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 230 grams warm water
  • 3 ¾ cups + 1 tablespoon bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons + ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 158 grams eggs (yes, I know that’s ridiculously precise…that’s Thomas Keller for you, kids. It should be about 3 eggs)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons egg yolks
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 100 grams unsalted butter, melted and cool
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Crab Cakes:

  • 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat (don’t get the fake shit, kids)
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 green onions, diced thin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups panko bread crumbs
  • Olive oil

Tartar Sauce:

  • ¼ cup mayo
  • 1 tablespoon relish
  • ½ tablespoon dijon mustard
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice


  • 1 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • ½ cup daikon radish, julienned
  • ½ cup jicama, julienned
  • ¼ cup mayo
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon mirin

Here’s how you do it:

Remember what I said up there about some people being masters and passing down baking secrets and all that?  Thomas Keller is the king of those, so I’m using his brioche recipe.  As much as I want to think I can do it better…I can’t.  I just can’t.

First, combine the yeast and sugar in a small bowl.

Stir in the warm water, and let it get all nice and bubbly for about 10 minutes.  If it’s foaming, you know you’re in good shape.

Stir together the flour and salt in a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment).

Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, honey, butter, and yeasty stuff in a separate bowl.

Put the mixer on low, then add the egg mixture into your flour/salt.  Once everything’s combined, kick it up to medium and let it mix for 10 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it somewhere warm for about an hour.  The dough should have doubled in size, otherwise let it sit a bit longer.

Press down on the dough so it deflates, turn it over a few times, scrape down the sides again and recover it with plastic wrap.  Keller says to refrigerate it for two hours; I did it overnight and it came out perfectly fine.  But I’d side with the guy who knows what he’s doing if I were you.

Once the dough’s been cooled off, get some 4-inch metal ring molds (I used some fancy fluted ones because I could) and fill with the dough.

Preheat your oven to 350.

Whisk together the egg and tablespoon of water to make an egg wash, then brush it on top of the dough.  Top with a sprinkle of salt, too.  Set it in a warm spot (yes, you’re gonna need somewhere warm for most of this recipe, welcome to baking bread) for 40 minutes, then smooth them out a little more.  You want them to rise just a bit.

Throw the buns in the oven for 15-17 minutes, and give ‘em the toothpick test to see if they’re ready.  If it comes out clean, let them cool on a cooling rack while you do everything else.

Next, the slaw.

This one’s easy: just throw everything in a bowl.  Toss.  That’s it.  It does help to refrigerate it while you do the rest of the recipe though, to let all the flavors get nice and comfortable with each other.

Same goes for the tartar sauce.  Throw all the ingredients in a bowl, whisk, and you’re good.  Make sure you’re taste testing this and the slaw, too.  Mostly because it’s a good idea, but partly because I pulled those recipes out of my ass and might be doing it somewhat from memory.  Hey, I’m not perfect.

For the crab cakes, drain the crab meat.

Add everything but the panko to a big bowl, and stir together along with the crab meat.  You want to break up the meat a little bit, but leave some big chunks.  As long as you land somewhere between microscopic and marble-sized, you’ll be golden.

Mix in the panko, form the stuff into patties, and cover it with plastic wrap.  This should form about 6 patties; you want them nice and thick.

Refrigerate the patties for an hour, that way it won’t fall apart when you put it in the pan later.  We want crab cakes here, not crab piles-of-shit.

Warm up a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook ‘em for about 4 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown, then flip them and cook for another 3 minutes or so.

All that’s left is to cut the buns in half, throw the sandwiches together, and throw them in your mouth along with this week’s beat.  It’s the one and only Ray Charles, with Night and Day:

There’s an important difference between concept and execution, folks.  As you can see from that brioche recipe, actually figuring out the route from “I want buttery stuff” to actual, said buttery stuff is ridiculously hard to get right.  But the inspiration behind it, the ideas that make it happen…I think those are child’s play.  It’s “ I want I want I WANT” in delicious, oven-fresh form.  If we could, we’d inject the stuff directly into our veins.  For now, we’ll have to settle for brioche.

I’ll see you next time, people.

Since I lifted his recipe, I feel obligated to show you the book I got it from.  Get it.  It’s the bible of baking things.


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