I was invited to design a Cinco de Mayo menu for Ceiba Restaurant along with their Chef de Cuisine, Alfredo Solis. The invitation included teaching a class covering that menu. As always, I was eager to teach whatever I know. But as always, I learn much more as I go. This time, I also learned, that you never know what foods you are going to like the best.
Solis and I were thrilled with the class menu. He was going to feature a tasty Shrimp Ceviche and some succulent Shredded Beef Tacos. I was going for a Red Snapper with a simple yet stylish Almond and Chipotle sauce, with a side of the ever exuberant Poblano Green Rice and a fresh Radish Salsita. I was also covering dessert: a textured and sweet coconut flan paired with fresh mangoes. And whipped cream. With a hint of Rum.
The whole experience was fun, from beginning to end. From meeting Solis for the first time -who shared his to die for mussels in a spicy tomato broth with chorizo, along with fascinating bits and pieces of his life story as he went from being a dishwasher to Chef de Cusine- to designing the menu, to tasting and testing it a week before class for a full dinner run, to prepping for class and lunch the day of. Day which, with the excuse of needing sweetened condensed milk for the coconut flan, I kept splashing some in their good coffee and sipping it all along.
And there we were, laughing it out, as we set up the demo stations, before we even started the class…
And there we were, ready and steady, a couple minutes before the guests were seated…
But when all was said and done and the guests were gone -hopefully happy and with a full belly- I looked at Solis and said what my friends know me for: what are WE eating now?
Solis responded: Anything you want to try from our menu!
Having eyed the already shaped crab cakes in the refrigerator that morning, I asked him what was in their mix. Just with the word Habaneros, I knew I was going for those.
So yes, I loved the menu we designed. And yes, I think it was a fun and yummy class. But I can tell you, those crab cakes are a pair of Rock Stars.
If you are not near DC or can’t go to Ceiba anytime soon, Solis graciously shared the recipe for you to sample at home. I just did as I posted those for you.
To make them, here we go: Lump crab meat, chopped Habanero -yes with seeds for me please-, cilantro, just a bit of bread crumbs and mayonnaise to bind the meat together, as well as the egg I am cracking there…
Then I am adding the juice of that shinny and juicy lime, some salt and fresh ground pepper.
When ready, prepare Solis’s tangy and light Jalapeño aioli, to drizzle over them. Just place the ingredients into a blender or food processor: mayonnaise, lime juice, Jalapeños, cilantro, salt and pepper…
For the crab cakes:
- 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
- 1 habanero chile, seeded (optional), chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3 teaspoons bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, more or less to taste
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the jalapeño aioli:
- 1 or 2 jalapeño chiles, seeded if desired
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- Combine the crab meat, habanero chile, cilantro, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, egg and lime juice in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Form 4 to 6 crab cakes, depending on how chubby and big you want them. You can prepare them in advance and keep them refrigerated for up to 2 days.
- Heat a large skillets set over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter into 1 tablespoon of oil. Once it starts to sizzle, add as many crab cakes as will fit without being crowded. Cook anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- To prepare the aioli, place all the ingredients in the blender and process until smooth. Drizzle over the crab cakes and if you want, sprinkle the top with freshly chopped cilantro.