It’s no secret, I love food. But it’s more than just something that tastes great. I love how food connects people. Whether a family sitting across the table from each other, a couple out on their first date or two friends chatting over food, eating is something we all have in common and something that we all have to do—like so many other things in life, though, we can’t simply hire someone else to do it for us. Because of that, food and eating are so often the catalyst that helps bring people together.Funny enough, this recipe is a perfect example of that. In February of 2017, I was fortunate enough to jump on a plane to New York City to film the crazy adventure that is Food Network’s Cooks vs. Cons. If you haven’t seen the Cooks vs. Cons, it’s a fun show! Two chefs (a la “Cooks”) and two non-chefs (a la “Cons”) compete to see who can make the best dish in 30 minutes and whether the judges can figure out who are the Chefs and who are the Cons.
Although I love cooking, I am a practicing attorney by trade and so I got selected as one of the Cons on the show. In round one, we had to make our take on Tuna Casserole using one of their mystery “milk” ingredients. I had never eaten Tuna Casserole in my life. First, I am not a fan of canned tuna and, second, my Dad never liked Casseroles. So, I was flying blind here!
Thirty minutes later, I put together a deconstructed Tuna Casserole that use elements of the traditional dish, but that reflected a modern take on this culinary staple. I seared Ahi Tuna in Ritz Crackers, creating a beautiful brown crust and making the upscale Ahi a little more relatable with the much-loved Ritz Crackers. I placed that around a stack of Couscous (to represent the egg noodles), sautéed pea shoots (to represent the canned peas), and sautéed mushrooms cooked in an almond milk (mystery ingredient #1) cream sauce, that I thickened with dried milk (mystery ingredient #2). The mushrooms were meant to represent the cream of mushroom soup that often gets used in Tuna Casserole. I finished it off with a dusting of Ritz Crackers to make it feel a little homier.
Fast forward, I fooled the judges in Round #1, beating out a Chef. So, it was on to Round #2, where we could make anything of our choosing using Eggs. But not regular eggs, we’re talking things like duck eggs, Cadbury Crème Eggs…you get the gist. And those were the two mystery ingredients I used to make my Cannoli Stuffed French Toast. All went as planned, except the Mascarpone I found in the fridge was so loose (almost the consistency of yogurt) that I couldn’t pipe it on to my French Toast. So, while the taste was there, it didn’t quite hit the look I was going for.
No matter because I remember seeing Chef Demal Mattson’s Carolina Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and thinking they were definitely worthy! At that point, I didn’t know whether he was the Chef (we don’t even know when we’re competing), but I had a hunch.
His crab cake was beautiful, sitting so tall and proud on a bed of succotash. If you read my blog, you know I am a huge fan of crab, so even I was wanting a bite of that Crab Cake. And sure enough, Chef won the grand prize of $10,000…which he donated, in honor of his father, to the Demal Mattson Jr. Special Education Fund, established by the Mattson family in order to help children with special education needs.
Fast forward a year and I was heading to the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. I remembered that Demal lived in Charleston, so I gave him a call and we met up for a bite to eat. (See the trend here…food, once again, bringing people together). During dinner, we talked about our experiences on the show. It was cool being able to chat with someone who went through the same experience and to be able to relive it though their perspective. It was also great catching up with a friend. Currently, Chef Demal has a very successful private chef business in Charleston and I travel frequently to Atlanta, so we talked about doing an episode of Tiny Kitchen Big Taste. Fast forward another month, and sure enough, Demal and I were standing in the On Location [not so] Tiny Kitchen in Atlanta making his $10,000 Food Network Award-Winning Crab Cakes. Score one for Tiny Kitchen!
I am not lying to you when I say, since seeing those crab cakes being presented on Cooks vs. Cons, I have been craving one. They looked amazing! And, well, I am happy to report that the taste of them is even better than they look.
They are perfectly balanced…the crab is definitely the star of the show and all the other ingredients play the perfect supporting role to highlight the beautifully sweet taste of crab.
You must try this recipe! You will not be disappointed! And for those of y’all who live in the Charleston, South Carolina, area or who may be visiting, I encourage you reach out to Chef Demal and have him come over to make you and yours one of the best meals you’ve ever tasted. Here is his website where you can contact him: http://www.chefdemal.com/
In the meantime, let these crab cakes be the catalyst that help bring you together with those in your life. You’ll once again experience how food helps bring us all a little closer.
Demal Mattson's Carolina Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
SO WHAT YOU'RE GONNA NEED IS:
Make the Crab Cakes
- In mixing bowl, combine Mayonnaise, juice and zest of one Lemon, sliced Green Onions, pinch of Old Bay Seasoning, Tabasco (optional) and one Egg. Stir until eggs are broken and mixture is emulsified.
- Gently fold in Jumbo Lump Crab meat, being careful not to break up the crab meat.
- Add 1/2 of the crushed Saltine Crackers, slowing adding more of them until the mixture is still moist but excess liquid is absorbed.
- To ensure consistency of size, use an Ice Cream scoop to scoop out the mixture. Place in your hand. Using fingers and thumb in the shape of a “C”, use both hands to form the crab cakes into the desire size. (Recommended diameter is about 2 1/2 inches. Note: Crab Cakes will be tall.)
Cook the Crab Cakes
- In a sauté pan over high heat, add Meyer lemon-infused Olive Oil and Butter. When Butter is melted and mixture is bubbly, turn down the heat to medium-high.
- Place the Crab Cakes in the pan and cook for 1 -1 1/2 minutes until they start to brown on the bottom.
- Flip Crab Cakes over. Turn off the heat. Transfer pan to a 400°F oven and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the Crab Cakes from oven and place them on a paper towel.
- Plate Crab Cakes and garnish with additional lemon and sliced green onions.