11.04.2017

Recipes and Remembrance

The scent of a certain flower can unexpectedly transport us to the past, or remind us of loved ones, or special times. The taste of foods, or even the mention of their names, has much the same power. Every time I get out the recipe that follows, I can't help but think of my parents and how much I miss them. Mom has been gone almost 30 years, and Dad almost 20.

Their favorite restaurant was Le Bec-Fin, a renowned and highly-praised French restaurant in Philadelphia run by Chef Georges Perrier.

I went there only once, with my friend and colleague Norma, almost twenty-five year ago, when we were attending a museum conference. It was exquisite and, yes, it was expensive.

My parents didn't go to Le Bec-Fin often, but it must have been often enough that when they asked for the recipe for the Galettes de Crabe, Chef Perrier obliged.

It's funny. Having eaten there only the one time (the Galettes de Crabe were not on the menu) and having made this recipe countless times, I can't really envision what Chef Perrier’s looked like.

I have tried to make mine as fancy as possible, but in the end, it looks like small crab cakes on a salad. Not exactly chain-restaurant fare, but mine are not Le Bec-Fin quality! (Note: I rummaged around today and found his original recipe, typed on a typewriter, and see that I took quite a few shortcuts over the years in terms of presentation... his instructions were clear, and, as a home cook, I chose to simplify for practicality!)

Looks aside, it definitely doesn't taste like a standard crab-cake-on-salad recipe. The cakes are more elegant than the usual breaded variety, and the flavors inside are delicate and subtle.

The salad, by itself, is special. This is the recipe that introduced me to walnut oil. What a difference it makes, and how nice to have a nutty alternative to olive oil.

I paired these galettes with a bottle of 2105 Déesse Asrtrée from Château d'Esclans - the light, crisp wine was perfect for the seafood in this dish. You can read more about it in my monthly "Wine with Food" column in the Provence WineZine.

When I made the galettes over the weekend, it brought back many memories of my parents, the enjoyment they got from dining at Le Bec-Fin, and the enjoyment I got from recreating it for them. It certainly wasn't an everyday place for them; it marked a special occasion.

Perhaps that is something many people miss these days: not enough dining in – at home, with homemade food, at the table, with good conversation and no cell phones or television – to make dining out seem special.

~ David

Galettes de Crabe
Minimally adapted from the recipe by Chef Georges Perrier, Le Bec-Fin

Galettes
3/4 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 large egg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 scallions, green parts only, sliced
1 teaspoon butter
8 ounces lump crabmeat, all flake removed
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped parsley


Salad
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
6 tablespoons walnut oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups mixed baby greens
1 tomato, seeded and chopped.
1 teaspoon snipped fresh chives
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
mixed micro greens
mixed cherry tomatoes, halved, for serving


Process the shrimp and egg in a food processor and scrape into a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in cream. Sweat the scallion greens in butter over low heat. Add scallions, crab, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and parsley to the shrimp mixture; stir well to blend. Chill for at least an hour - mixture will thicken.

Whisk together mustard, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Set vinaigrette aside. In a large salad bowl, mix chopped tomatoes with chives, parsley, and 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette. Add the greens and toss with the tomato mixture; divide among 4 plates. Sprinkle with some micro greens, then garnish with halved cherry tomatoes.

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat (I use an electric skillet set at 325°F). Set a 2 1/4-inch ring mold in the skillet and fill with 2 tablespoons of batter. Tamp down slightly and quickly remove the ring. Repeat. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. I did two batches of 10 galettes and kept the first warm in the oven while I cooked the second batch. Place 5 galettes on top of each salad and drizzle with additional vinaigrette.


Serves 4.

34 comments:

  1. This is such an interesting recipe in the way the little cakes are prepared, David. This is something I will definitely have to try, perhaps during the holidays.

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    1. It is a very nice holiday meal, Karen. In fact, it was one of the last meals (Christmas Day) I prepared fro my father and stepmother just weeks before he passed.

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  2. I love this recipe, though I doubt I could do it justice. I especially like the crab cakes without a lot of breading.

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    1. Of course you can do this justice, Susan! After looking at the original, I realize how much I have adapted it over the years much simpler than Georges would expect of us!

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  3. David, this looks wonderful. I will have to try this as soon as our local Dungeness crab is available. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Lucky you, Gerlinde! Our neighbor brings some Dungeness crab down from the north with her when she comes - we always benefit!

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  4. This is such an elegant dish, David. I actually like that you haven't used bread crumbs, which is very much the norm with many crab cake recipes. This is so much more delicate, and perfect with those greens.

    As for walnut oil, very rarely use it at home and was reintroduced to it when we recently travelled through Slovenia and parts of Istria. You see so much of it there. The flavour is incredible!

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    1. John - I have been making this for years and had never invested in the walnut oil I am so glad I have, now - it is really wonderful! It has already become a staple for me!

      And, the crab cakes are almost like a mousse - the crumbs would ruin them!

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  5. lovely post. Now that I am more than a middle aged man, I find myself looking back more and more: to places, people that are no more, ecc... and food is always playing such a major part in this process +"food" is my real memory box.
    walnut oil: it makes most things sings and I always have a bottle in my fridge, it used to be very expensive here, not it is cheap... one of my standard quick fixes is a simple platter of spaghetti + butter +chopped toasted walnuts +parmigiano + a generous drizzle of the oil
    stefano

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    1. I love the concept of food being your memory box, Stefano - that is really the perfect way to put it. So many of my best memories revolve around the table - food, friends, family together.

      I should probably keep the oil in my fridge - never think of that with olive oil. Mark and I are going to make your pasta described above tomorrow night. Yum.

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  6. Although I do like crab cakes—I live in Maryland now, after all—these really do take the concept to an entirely different level. I've got to try this!

    And where are those elegant French restaurants like Le Bec-Fin these days anyway? They seem to have disappeared almost entirely from the scene. As you say, people are cooking in less and eating out more casually, so the sense of eating out as a special occasion you look forward to before and remember fondly afterwards just doesn't seem to exist any more. Except in the memories of people like us, I guess...

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    1. I always think of you in DC, Frank - although I am sure where you are is really an extension of the city.

      We have one old-fashioned french restaurant left in Tucson, and it has been taken over by the younger generation. The menu us changing, the vibe is slowly getting to be hip vs. elegant. So sad. Maybe there will be a resurgence if you and I 9and others) keep the old ways alive?

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  7. Thank you, David, for a beautiful recipe and a reminder to enjoy the special moments in life.

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    1. Thanks, Allison - it is, indeed, good to keep those special moments alive in us.

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  8. I think your presentation is incredibly elegant. Probably more beautiful than the original. Coincidentally Dungeness crab season in CA started the day before yesterday! GREG

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    1. Thanks, Greg. I wonder what Georges would think? Aren't you the lucky one to be getting Dungeness crab... color me green.

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  9. Thank you for putting your memories down and allowing us to share and remember our own. My beloved Dad left early some 40 years ago: I still 'talk' to him on quiet nights and he still tells me what to do :) ! Beautiful recipe which is already down for Yule gatherings . . . absolutely love the salad . . .

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    1. Eha - like you, I talk to my mother in the kitchen all the time. Whenever I think of her, that is where I see her. She is with me as I make everything... I hope you enjoy the galettes - they will be lovely fro the holiday!

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  10. This is a lovely recipe and such a nice memory of your parents. And delicious sounding too.

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    1. Thanks, Carol - I would be happy to make them for you when you next visit!

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  11. Oh how I love fond food memories. So nice you found this original recipe that fills you with memories of your parents. I quite like your presentation! I bet they are very delicious, too.

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    1. I knew this would strike a chord with you, Valentina.. You and I both talk often about how food, memory, and family are linked.

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  12. It’s amazig how food can stir memories in us, banana cake always makes me think of Nan. I love this dish it looks lovely and fresh.

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    1. Maybe you should make a banana cake today< Emma! It would be nice for you to have "a visit" with your Nan!

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  13. David, there are definitely recipes I make that take me right back to my childhood home and can take me back to places I've traveled to long ago. It's the one tangible way we've got to travel back in time. I really love seafood and this dish looks beautiful and sounds scrumptious!

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    1. Ho true, Marcelle - it is traveling back in time, yet it is so much a way to keep time form slipping away from us. I hope you get to make them - my young nieces and nephews love them - maybe your kids will, too!

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  14. Sounds like you have some wonderful memories of your parents, certain foods remind me of mine too. Love that there is both shrimp and crab in these cakes. I bet they are delicious!

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    1. Oh, I bet you could make a really wonderful version of these when you are in the Northwest, Cheri!

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  15. David, I love that you keep making this recipe that reminds you of your parents. My favorite childhood memories happen to be nearly all food memories. And I love thinking of my parents and grandmothers whenever I'm cooking. Beautiful recipe, and walnut oil definitely elevates a dish.

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    1. Jean - I can't imagine that there is a single food writer/blogger out there who doesn't tie memory to food! Glad you like the recipe - and yes, the walnut oil is amazing!

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  16. Well probably only a hair shy of complete perfection from the looks of it David. My recent (okay a few years back) oil discovery was macadamia nut oil which we love and is unique in that it is loaded with omega-9...

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    1. Thanks, Inger. I have been in an EEVO rut for too many years - all these wonderful oils to try - walnut, macadamia, avocado, argan... so many!

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  17. Dear David, I must admit that I have never made Galettes de Crabe, Crab Cakes but I have made some with salmon, which I love. So, I know I would most definitely adore these! Fabulous post and wonderful recipe with an impeccable presentation, my friend!

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    1. We love salmon cakes, as well, Andrea! Thanks for your kind comment about the presentation!

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