These light but sumptuous two-bite treats stand miles apart from the mayo-heavy, crab-flavored bread-crumb mounds that often pass for crab cakes nowadays.
Here, they are all about the succulent crab, which is bound minimally with whole-grain bread crumbs and egg — no mayo at all. The sweet tenderness of the seafood is elevated, not overwhelmed, with lime, ginger and cilantro, and enriched with fragrant, toasted sesame oil. The cakes are coated in more whole-grain bread crumbs, specifically Japanese panko, which make for an extra-crispy exterior when pan-fried (not deep-fried) in a small amount of oil.
The sauce rises above the densely mayonnaise-y typical tartar as well, both flavor and healthwise. Its creamy richness comes from avocado, which is mashed with lime and spiked with a heady punch of wasabi paste. Dolloped on top of the crab cakes, it is exactly the crown they deserve. These crab cakes may be made as regular-size patties as well, but at this size they are ideal as party finger-food.
Mini crab cakes with avocado wasabi sauce
Make ahead: The shaped crab cakes need to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 day in advance. Reheat cooked crab cakes on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes before serving.
1 pound crab claw meat, picked over
1 cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup seeded, finely chopped red bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped scallion greens
1½ tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 or 2 limes)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1½ teaspoons peeled, finely grated fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup canola or other neutral-tasting oil
Flesh of 1 ripe avocado
½ teaspoon prepared wasabi paste, or more as needed
Stir together the crab, ½ cup of the panko, the egg, red bell pepper, scallion, ½ tablespoon of the lime juice, toasted sesame oil, ginger, cilantro, ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper in a mixing bowl, until just combined. Place the remaining ½ cup of panko in a shallow bowl or rimmed plate.
Divide the crab mixture into 12 equal portions. Shape each into a round patty about 2½ inches in diameter. Coat each patty with the remaining panko. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 day.
Heat the neutrally flavored oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the crab cakes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown on both sides and warmed though.
Meanwhile, mash the avocado with the remaining tablespoon of lime juice, the wasabi paste and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt to form a smooth sauce. Taste, and add more wasabi paste, as needed.
To serve, top each with a tablespoon-size dollop of the avocado wasabi sauce.
Makes 4 to 6 servings (12 crab cakes). Nutrition per serving (based on 6): 250 calories, 17 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 90 milligrams cholesterol, 370 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, no sugar.