The heat is making me want to run from the kitchen, but there are some coping skills I use this time of year that might help.
Instead of turning that great big oven on to bake something, I find myself turning more and more to the tiny toaster oven. It’s perfect for baking small items like a pan of six muffins, a half dozen cookies, a few crab cakes or even a pan of fresh asparagus.
This keeps the whole kitchen from heating up in the evening but does require a bit of ingenuity.
First, make sure your toaster oven is large enough to avoid scorching whatever you are cooking (getting muffins too close to the element can spell disaster.)
Second, if you are making dinner, think of that one item you are cooking as the single hot item on the menu. For instance, if you are baking crab cakes, pair them with a crisp salad and make that your main meal.
I know some of you think I am crazy for talking about baking crab cakes, and many of you may opt to just cook them in butter on the stove.
But any crab, shrimp or fish cake that is primarily made up of seafood and has little filler will fare almost better on a shallow baking (or toaster oven) pan than in a skillet. Baking reduces your need to fiddle with flipping a tender cake and frees you up for fixing the rest of the meal.
I have two great recipes for baking in the toaster oven that will prove my point and make you a hero at the table this week.
First is a recipe for shrimp scampi cakes—a twist on the usual simple shrimp cake. Great shrimp is less expensive and often easier to come by than crab—and adding a touch of different flavor to these cakes makes them extra special.
The second recipe, a bit more complicated, is worth the effort especially if you are splurging on pricey lump crab meat. The process is perfect for creating a make-ahead meal for company and it does make for a spectacular meal!
Shrimp Scampi Cakes
2 cups well-chopped shrimp meat
1 Tablespoon tiny capers, drained
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 teaspoon fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup high-quality Mayonnaise
¾ cup Panko breadcrumbs
Mix all the ingredients together and let the mixture sit in the refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes or several hours. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a shallow baking pan. Form the shrimp mixture into several cakes (generally, I get 6-8 from the recipe) and place them gently on the baking pan. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until they are golden brown.
Philadelphia Cricket Club House Recipe Crab Cakes
(This recipe makes 8 entrée sized 4 oz. crab cakes—enough for a big crowd. You can cut the recipe in half for a party of four)
2 whole eggs
2 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 Tablespoon wet mustard—dijon style
2 Tablespoons half and half
2/3 cup fine cracker meal
2 pounds Jumbo Lump Crab Meat
Mix all ingredients except cracker meal and crab meat for two minutes on medium speed of an electric mixer. Once mixed, gradually add the cracker meal. Pour the batter into the bowl. Gently fold in the crab meat BY HAND. To mold the crab cakes, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the paper with Pam. Place 8 ring molds on the sheet and spray the insides of the molds lightly with Pam also. Divide the crab mixture among the molds and gently press down to compress the mixture into each mold. Cover the molds with foil and bake them at 350ºF for 20 minutes in a conventional oven. Remove them from the oven and refrigerate them for one hour. Cut around the inside of the ring molds with a sharp paring knife to remove the molds. (You may prepare the recipe this far and then refrigerate the crab cakes, covered, until twenty minutes before serving, up to one day.) Twenty minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lay the crab cakes out on a baking sheet lined with greased parchment or a silicone baking mat. Reheat the crab cakes for fifteen minutes, or until they are heated through. Serve hot.