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

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

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.

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