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Goddess of the Sea CakesI really do so enjoy imitation crab meat.  I know it’s not crab meat.  I just like it.  It’s never fishy when it’s heated.  It has a nice consistency, it’s easy to work with and it just tastes so good.  And it was really good in these patties.  So don’t be a snob about this.  Yeah, the packages say “imitation crab meat”, but let’s not think this is a substitute for actual crab meat.  We know it isn’t.  It wouldn’t say this really tastes like crab meat, but in some dishes, it can be a half-way decent substitute.  The taste is still delicious.  It has a subtle, slightly sweet flavor and it’s easy to work with, too.  I was wanting to make a gluten-free version of crab cakes.  In the past, I’ve tried using gluten-free crumbs, but they were sort of unpleasantly “gummy”.  Gluten-free bread has come a long, long way, and the crumbs are fine for breading, but as a binding agent, not so much.  This is where those handy-dandy dried potato flakes are our friend.  Flavor-wise, they’re relatively neutral.  They are easy to work with and frankly, Goddess of the Sea CakesI think this may be my new go-to fish cake, shrimp cake, salmon cake and crab cake recipe.  We liked them that much.  This looks much more complicated than it actually is.  The great thing about this recipe, is that you can make these early in the day, cover them and chill in the fridge, then all you have to do is fry them and make the sauce, if you want to use the sauce.  Tartar sauce is good these, too.  So, off to the recipe we go….Goddess of the Sea CakesStir the potato flakes and the hot milk together, in a large bowl; the mixture will be very, very stiff.  Goddess of the Sea CakesAdd all the sea cake ingredients, except the shrimp and crab meat.  Combine the mixture as best you can; fingers or a spatula should do the trick.  Goddess of the Sea CakesStir the shrimp and imitation crab meat in until everything is evenly distributed.   Let the mixture stand for at least 15 minutes.  Check the consistency; it shouldn’t be too dry or soupy; Goddess of the Sea Cakesyou just want it to hold together well, like the consistency of stiff mashed potatoes.  If you need to, add a bit more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Use your hands (if you went them with cold water, it helps to prevent sticking) or Goddess of the Sea Cakesan ice cream scoop and form the mixture into 4-6 patties.  Place them on a parchment or waxed paper-line plate; chill for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours (cover with plastic wrap if storing for more than 1 hour). At least 15 minutes before you plan to pan-fry the cakes, Goddess of the Sea Cakescombine the chopped pecans, crumbs, and the parmesan cheese; I use my fingertips to do this.  Goddess of the Sea CakesCarefully press each side of the cakes into the crumb mixture.  This is a light coating, so it may need some coaxing to adhere.  Set the coated cakes aside in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.  This whole process can be done earlier in the day, the cakes can be covered with wrap and chilled until you’re ready to fry them. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add the butter and oil.  Goddess of the Sea CakesWhen the butter begins to brown slightly, gently slide the cakes into the pan; you may need to fry them in batches or use 2 pans.  Don’t move the cakes, but let them fry and brown nicely, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Use caution when turning them, so they don’t fall apart.  Remove the browned cakes from the skillet when done; place on a serving platter and tent with foil.  If you’re making the sauce—return that same skillet to the burner.  These should be some remaining butter/oil in the pan.  If not, add a couple of tablespoons of butter.  Add the leeks; sauté until they become limp, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the rice flour; stir to combine and let it cook for 1 minutes, stirring frequently.  While stirring, slowly add the broth to the leek mixture.  Let simmer for a couple of minutes to thicken the sauce and cook off the raw taste.  Stir in the peas; cook just until heated through, about 1 minute.  Serve the cakes, topped with 1-2 tablespoons of sauce.

You can absolutely use all shrimp, all imitation crab, as well as cooked whitefish or salmon.  For salmon, I might add some fresh dill, too.

  • Servings: Makes about 4-6 cakes
  • Difficulty: Moderately Easy
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If these are formed and coated ahead, the meal goes together quickly and works well for a mid-week meal.  I wouldn’t freeze these, though.

  • 1 cup dry potato flakes (I use Idahoan® Original Potato Flakes)
  • 2/3 cup hot whole milk
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons very finely minced fresh fennel, including some of the fronds
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced celery, including some leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced sweet bell peppers
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic granules
  • 2 teaspoons aji amarillo paste (optional)
  • Grated zest of 1/2 large lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely snipped fresh chives
  • 1 small handful cooked shrimp, chopped (a good 1/2 cup diced)
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked imitation crab meat, diced
  • Coating:
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs (use gluten-free, if needed)
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, combine the potato flakes and the hot milk.  Give it a good stir.  The mixture will be very, very stiff.  Add the scallions, fennel, celery, bell peppers, garlic granules, aji amarillo, if using, lemon zest and juice, capers, and chives.  Stir this mixture all together as best you can.  Sometimes I use my fingers to do this, but a spatulas usually works well enough.  Add the shrimp and imitation crab meat; stir until everything is evenly distributed.   Let the mixture stand for at least 15 minutes.  Check the consistency.  You want it to hold together well.  Form into 4-6 patties; place on a parchment or waxed paper-line plate; chill for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours (cover with plastic wrap if storing for more than 1 hour.

At least 15 minutes before you plan to pan-fry the cakes, combine the chopped pecans, crumbs, and the parmesan cheese; I use my fingertips.  Carefully press each side of the cakes into the crumb mixture.  This is a light coating, so it may need some coaxing.  Set aside in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.  This whole process can be done earlier in the day, the cakes can be covered with wrap and chilled until you’re ready to fry them.

Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add the butter and oil.  When the butter begins to brown slightly, gently slide the cakes into the pan; you may need to do this in batches or use 2 pans.  Don’t move the cakes, but let them fry and brown nicely, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Use caution when turning them.  Remove the cakes from the skillet when done, place on a serving platter and tent with foil.  Serve with Terrific Tartar Sauce, Lime-Garlic Aïoli or a Quick Fresh Fruit Salsa.

NOTE:  If you aren’t using aji amarillo, but you still want a bit of heat, add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or any ground hot pepper you wish.

Goddess of the Sea Cakes Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2018.  All rights reserved.

HINT:  Everyone knows that dried potato flakes are a great way to thicken soups.  But they are so much more than that.  They are incredibly effective absorbing the moisture that sometimes “weeps” from tuna or egg salad, potato salad or creamy coleslaw.  Just sprinkle one or two tablespoons over the mixture, stir it in and let it set for about 15-30 minutes, to allow time for the potato flakes to reconstitute and absorb the excess liquid.  You won’t even know they’re there!