I made this dish last year as the second of three courses that all featured an unusual ingredient: tea. The semester was ending, and I had had to get rid of all the tea I didn’t drink during my last semester in college. I started thinking about ways to re-purpose tea into food, rather than drink. My fiance (now wife) introduced me to the London Fog–an earl grey tea latte– and I started trying to come up with a way to harness all of the different flavors in the tea, and put them on a plate. Seafood was my first choice for protein, since the natural sweetness of shellfish would ideally work well with the citrusy–and even bitter notes in the tea. I got the unusual idea of turning tea into a sauce when I noticed how concentrated the last few sips of the tea were when I left the tea in the cup–it reminded me of the simple syrups used to flavor and sweeten drinks. I figured I could use a small amount of highly concentrated tea to flavor the sauce, swap coconut milk for actual milk, and add spices to make it savory. This was definitely another one of my crazy ideas.
I decided to make crab cakes. I usually make them without eggs, and with un-toasted bread rather than breadcrumbs to keep the texture light. I think also helps keep the focal point of the cake on the crab flavor, rather than all of the other add-ins. Hey, if I’m going to buy crab, I want to taste crab. The final piece was a simple arugula and melon salad to act as a palate cleanser.
This combination of flavors and ingredients is definitely unusual, but it was a welcome creative challenge I needed to kickstart my brain.
2 lb Lump Crab Meat
2 Cups White Bread, minced
2 Cups Coconut Milk
1 Cup Earl Grey Tea
4 Cups Baby Arugula
1/2 Cup Italian Parsley, chopped
1/2 Honeydew Melon, peeled and cubed
2 Shallots, minced
2 Tbs Dijon Mustard
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Capers, minced
1 Tbs Butter, melted
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Tbs Paprika
1 Tbs Coriander
1/2 Tbs Cornstarch
Salt & Pepper to Taste
- Strain the crab meat to remove excess moisture, then transfer to a large mixing bowl, and check for any rogue shell fragments.
- In a separate bowl, combine Dijon mustard, capers, diced shallots, melted butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, and melted butter. Stir to combine, then pour over the crab meat. Stir in bread until all excess moisture is absorbed, and the mixture thickens. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove crab mixture from the refrigerator, form your desired crab cake shape, and place them on a baking sheet with parchment paper (or foil). Bake the crab cakes until they are golden brown–about 12 minutes.
- Brew a strong cup of earl grey tea, and allow it to cool. Peel and juice the orange, but keep the orange peel. Combine the coconut milk, tea, orange peel, vanilla, coriander, salt and pepper in a medium sauce pan on med-high heat until it begins to boil. Stir in half a tablespoon of corn starch, then simmer on low heat until the sauce reduces and thickens. Lower heat to the lowest setting and keep warm until ready to serve.
- Combine arugula, honeydew, parsley and shallots in a large bowl, and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, whisk together orange juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, then stir into the salad bowl.
- Remove the crab cakes from the oven, and rest on the counter for 10 minutes.
- Plate and serve.