Crab cakes for a summer evening

You’d have to be a serious foodie, and a die-hard one at that, to roast jalapeño peppers on a hot summer day. Or you’d just have to be me.

I’m the woman who leaves the house without a jacket on a damp day with the temperature in the 50s because it’s June and I shouldn’t have to wear a jacket. I’ve also been known to wear a sweater on a hot day because I want to make a sundress appropriate for work. So I guess it’s no surprise that yesterday I caught myself roasting jalapeños on a 70-something degree day with the windows closed and the house slowly heating up.

The result? The most delicious and meaty crab cakes you can imagine, accompanied by a roasted jalapeño aïoli with just the right amount of bite.

The weather in Seattle yesterday was perfect: mid-70s, sunny, and pleasant into the evening as the sun went down. It wasn’t as hot as last week, when summer hit us over the head with its sweltering, fashionably-late entrance. Rather, it was just right for a chilled bottle of Pink Paintbrush rosé from Walla Walla’s Isenhower Cellars, a refreshing, dry rosé made up mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with some Merlot and Petit Verdot. It paired so nicely with crab cakes that it was well worth raising the temperature in the kitchen a few degrees.

Crab Cakes with Roasted Jalapeño Aïoli
These crab cakes are enough to feed a crowd. If you’re making them for two to three people, go ahead and cut the recipe in half, except for the eggs (it is hard to split a raw egg in half, after all); instead, pick two of the smaller eggs in the dozen and cut back just a little on the whites. It’ll turn out just fine. Oh, one more thing: this makes a lot more aïoli than you will need. I cut it back by a third and had plenty for a half recipe of crabcakes. I’ve included those proportions in parentheses below. Now if only I had some frites to dip into the leftover aïoli… Adapted from Intermezzo and Boulevard Restaurant.

For aïoli:
6 jalapeño peppers (2)
6 garlic cloves, peeled (2)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup scallions (white and light green parts only), chopped (1 1/2 Tablespoons)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped (scant 1/4 cup)
Freshly ground black pepper

For crab cakes:
1 large baguette
2-3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
1 pound Dungeness crabmeat
2/3 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Salt, to taste (optional)
Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
3 eggs

Blacken jalapeño peppers by placing them on a lightly-oiled baking sheet or foil paper and broiling until the skin is slightly charred and bubbly. Turn them occasionally so all sides get blackened. Place in a heat-proof bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap for a half an hour to let them steam.

Meanwhile, poach garlic cloves in boiling water for three minutes, and prepare the breadcrumbs. Toast the baguette in a 350 degree oven. Let cool, then run through a food processor to make bread crumbs (don’t over-process–they should remain somewhat coarse) and measure out two cups for the crab cakes, reserving the rest for another use. Rinse and dry the food processor bowl and blade for the next step.

To make the aïoli, remove the skin, seeds, and stems from the jalapeños and place the peppers in the food processor with the poached garlic and the rest of the aïoli ingredients. Process until smooth, then refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the crab cakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss breadcrumbs with 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil so they’re moistened but not soggy (the original recipe called for just 2 tablespoons, but I doubled the ratio with success). Add the remaining crab cake ingredients except the eggs. (Tip: Before adding salt, taste to see if you need it. The Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, and crab may give it enough flavor.) Separate the eggs, adding the yolks to the crab mixture and stirring to combine. Beat the whites until they form stiff peaks, then fold into the crab mixture.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Form the crab mixture into three-inch balls, then flatten slightly and cook until browned on one side. Turn the crab cakes over, taking care so they don’t fall apart, then finish in the oven until the other side is browned and the crab cakes are heated through.

Top crab cakes with jalapeño aïoli and serve with either a dry rosé or a crisp white wine.

Serves 8 to 10.