Blue Crab Cakes & Weekend in the Big Easy
Disclaimer: Long post ahead, scroll to the bottom for the recipe.
Back in March, Ricky and I headed south for a brief weekend in New Orleans. Neither of us have ever been, so we were excited to get a taste (literally) of what the city had to offer. As someone with a food blog, this statement should come as no surprise, but I was jazzed up about a food-centric weekend getaway. Oddly enough, a lot of our travel, whether a weekend or week-long trip, isn't food-focused (shocker, I know).
We took an early flight out Saturday morning and immediately hit the ground running in search of our first bite. We attempted to hit Turkey & the Wolf (an acclaimed sandwich joint) but they'd already closed shop for the day. Don't worry, we made our way there eventually. Instead, we decided to start the trip off on a high note, with the best (and only) po boys I've had in my life. We split a shrimp po boy and an oyster po boy from Domilise's, a true dive near where we were staying. These guys were massive, we could have definitely split just one and been satisfied, but when in New Orleans, right? Stuffed from our po boys, we decided to walk back toward our Airbnb in the Garden District via trendy Magazine St. Along the way we stopped for happy hour at Cavan and each ordered a Sazerac, the iconic cocktail of New Orleans. Cavan made theirs with rye whiskey, Peychaud's bitters, and Herbsaint, a liqueur similar to absinthe. We enjoyed this spot so much that we debated going back several times throughout the rest of the weekend.
Saturday night kicked off with more classic cocktails at the famed French 75 bar in the French Quarter. I got their namesake drink while Ricky tried a Ramos Gin Fizz. Next up was oysters at Seaworthy, followed by a late dinner at Herbsaint. Despite it being almost 10pm, Herbsaint was still bustling. We split the gumbo and Louisiana ceviche to start, and concluded our consumption tour with the duck confit. After dinner, we ventured over to Frenchman St for another round of drinks, this time accompanied by live jazz. Before calling it a night, as first-timers in the city, our curiosity led us to check out the scene on Bourbon St. Best. People. Watching. Ever.
Sunday started early with another stroll along Magazine St toward Surrey's Cafe & Juice Bar for some breakfast. We each had fresh squeezed juice and I ordered the scramble special with andouille sausage, while Ricky devoured his shrimp and grits. From there we wandered around the beautiful Garden District, stumbled upon a jazz band on St. Charles Ave and then in true millennial fashion made Ricky take pictures of me in front of the American Horror Story - Coven house.
Having walked just enough to work up a small appetite, we returned to Turkey and the Wolf to grab a quick lunch before continuing to explore the city. Turkey and the Wolf is a quirky little place known for its unique sandwiches. We split the crispy chicken skin deviled eggs and the collard green melt, which was by and far the best sandwich I've had in years.
Most of Saturday afternoon was spent exploring the city, snaking our way through the French Quarter before ending our walking tour at Bacchanal for some afternoon wine and more jazz. Bacchanal is a very popular outdoor wine bar where you enter through a little wine shop, pick out a bottle (or two) and enjoy on their sunny patio while live bands play throughout the day. It was quite packed upon our arrival, but with my hawk eye and Ricky's quick reflexes, we snagged a small table right in the center. Because it was so popular, we offered to share our table with 3 older folks who quickly became our friends.
We couldn't leave the Big Easy without getting our hands on some sweet beignets at Cafe Du Monde. We waited until Monday morning before attempting Cafe Du Monde (seriously, the weekend line is hours long) which was the perfect way to start our last morning. With big lunch plans set for that day (more on that below), we split an order of 3, though I could have easily inhaled my own order for sure. We spent the remainder of the morning walking through more of the residential areas around the Garden District, constantly in awe of all the elegant homes.
We had reserved a table at Commanders Palace for lunch before our flight out in the evening. Commanders Palace is an award winning restaurant serving upscale Creole cuisine along, and on weekdays 25 cent martinis (yes, you read that right). We requested seating in the garden room upstairs, and enjoyed one of the more unique meals of the trip. We split the shrimp & tasso henican before our soup course - turtle soup for Ricky and crab bisque for me. We then rounded it out with entrée salads and a martini or two each.
It's hard to rank all the food we ate, considering every meal was spectacular in it's own way. However, I have to say, Sunday night's dinner at La Petite Grocery was next level. So good in fact, the recipe below is inspired by two of the menu items we had - the Blue Crab Beignets and the Apple & Celeriac Salad.
It's safe to say that inspiration for this recipe abounded in New Orleans. Even in just a whirlwind long weekend, we consumed so much delicious food that it was really hard to come up with the recipe I wanted to create. However, after finishing our meal at La Petite Grocery, I knew I wanted to work with blue crab.
I love crab cakes and have been meaning to make a recipe for the blog for some time. Unfortunately, blue crab season is short lived on the west coast (hence why this blog post is several months after our trip), but these cakes would be just as tasty with regular crab too. Drawing some inspiration from the apple salad we had, I decided to serve the crab cakes over an apple and celery root slaw. The combination of sweet crunchiness really helps lighten up the salty, umami flavor of the crab cakes.
15 oz blue crab meat (roughly 1 lb)
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 black pepper
1 tsp coconut aminos or soy sauce
.5 tsp fresh lemon juice
2-3 tbsp coconut or almond flour
1 small celery root, peeled and spiralized or diced into matchsticks
1 apple, spiralized or diced into matchsticks
2 tbsp fresh parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tbsp apple cider vin
Pinch salt & pepper
Malt Vinegar Mayo:
4 tbsp mayo
2 tbsp malt vinegar
1. Feel free to sub malt vinegar for a gluten free option.
2. Any crab will do, just make sure you really drain the excess liquid. This recipe omits bread crumbs, which usually help soak up liquid.
1. Rinse and drain the crab meat. Pick through to discard of any shells or debris. Take care to drain this thoroughly, let crab meat sit in a fine mesh strainer for several minutes and press through to rid of all excess liquid.
2. Mix together all of the ingredients for the crab cakes in large bowl. Firmly form into 4-5 large or 6-8 smaller patties (smaller ones hold together better). Lay on a baking tray and place the tray into the freezer to firm up for 5-10 minutes. If you're having trouble forming patties (mixture too wet) continue to drain liquid and/or add a touch more flour (1 tsp at a time).
3. While patties form up, toss together the celery root, and apple, and parsley. Drizzle with the apple cider vinegar and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
4. Make the malt vinegar aioli by combining the malt vinegar and mayo.
5. Remove the patties from the freezer and heat a large tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add 3-4 cakes to your frying pan, careful not to crowd the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes, then flip, and cook an additional 2 minutes, or until golden and crispy. 6. Divide slaw amongst 4-6 plates (depending on how much you're serving). Top with crab cakes, aioli, and additional chives.