Thursday, January 3, 2013

Crab cakes, aioli, and clarified butter (ghee!)

I had a productive morning! Except my phone ran out of batteries, so there is no photographic evidence. Oops!

Last night, I soaked some sunflower seeds in filtered water. This morning, I drained and rinsed them and set them aside. I will continue to rinse and drain them for a day or three, until they have little tails, and then I will tell you how to make my famous raw vegan sprouted sunflower seed hummus!

Other things that have been accomplished this morning are not so vegan-friendly: Ghee, mayonnaise, and totally grain free crab cakes. Each deserves its own post, but I'm going to squish them all into one because it is my blog and I can!

First, ghee. Clarified butter. It is a traditional food from India and other regions. It has a very high smoke point, unlike regular whole butter, so you can cook with it at much higher temperatures without damaging it. Plus, it's the only dairy product allowed on the Whole30.

It is so easy. Are you ready?


Take some organic butter from pasture fed cows. Put it in a saucepan large enough to hold it, but not too huge. Melt it over fairly low heat. Eventually, the water trapped inside will start popping and crackling as it evaporates out. If it doesn't, turn it up just a little. If it's too aggressive, turn it down a little.

Let it go until all or almost all of the water is boiled off, then pour it through a sieve lined either with 3 layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag, into a heat-proof glass measuring cup. Your cheesecloth or nut milk bag will catch almost all of the milk solids. Throw those away (or use in an extra rich brown butter if you are into such things.)

Now your measuring cup is full of golden, melty, lovely almost-totally-clarified butter. You may have a few super-tiny particles of milk solids still in there. Wait a few minutes for them to settle out, then carefully pour your ghee off into a heat-proof jar, leaving any solids behind at the bottom of the measuring cup. Now you're done!

Let the ghee cool to room temperature, then cover. Keeps for a very long time refrigerated, and believe it or not, at cool room temperature too. (I refrigerate mine.)

You can use it to fry the crab cakes I'm going to tell you about in a minute.


Mayo is not hard. Don't be afraid! The instructions are longer than the whole process of making this. I promise.

Leave a couple eggs out at room temperature for at least a couple hours, up to overnight. Your mayo will work so much better if all your ingredients are at room temp! If you forget, rest the eggs for a few minutes in a bowl of warm water to warm them a little.

If you are pregnant or immune-compromised and don't feel comfortable using raw eggs, pasteurize them in a bath of hot water. If you are neither pregnant nor immune-compromised, make whatever decision you are comfortable with. I would not use eggs from a factory farm for this mayonnaise; I use eggs from a farmer I know and trust. Personally, I feel that raw foods and especially raw egg yolks have a lot of health benefits. And the risk of salmonella or other contamination is minimal when you choose good, real eggs from good farmers.

Choose your oil. Today, I used a combination of rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) and extra virgin olive oil. If you are using a solid fat like animal fat or coconut oil in winter, melt it gently over low heat. You can also use a cold-pressed sunflower seed or grape seed oil as part of the fat. I don't recommend soy or canola oil for your health, but if you insist on using them in your diet, they do work well here. If you are using only evoo and no other fat, know that the taste will be very strong and may be slightly bitter. Usually, aioli is made with a combination of evoo and another oil - refined olive or another vegetable oil. (Aioli also usually contains garlic, and the acid is lemon instead of vinegar.)

Decide if you want a little mustard (it helps get emulsification going but isn't totally necessary) and decide what kind of acid you want to use. Lemon juice is great, as is raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, but any vinegar will do.

Separate your eggs and put the yolks (or one yolk and one whole egg) in the bowl of your food processor. Whir them up. Add mustard if using, a pinch of salt, and a tiny splash of your vinegar or lemon juice. Blend really well.

With the motor running, very slowly pour liquid fat in. It's best to either start with the fat that is not extra virgin olive oil, and add the evoo last, or mix the oils together and pour them as a blend.

Keep slowly pouring and blending until it emulsifies. You will know when it does, because it will look like mayonnaise (but a lot yellower than the packaged stuff.)

If it doesn't ever emulsify, you can save it! Pour your runny mess out from the bowl of the processor into a jar or small bowl with a spout. Put a new egg yolk or two in the bowl of the processor. Process the new yolks for a couple minutes, then slowly start adding the messy stuff into the processing yolks.

Once it's all nicely emulsified, season it up. Add more salt, vinegar, or lemon, as needed. A great and super healthy addition here is a spoonful of probiotic whey drained from homemade yogurt, or some sauerkraut juice. It sounds so crazy, but it is fantastic for digestion. I know, me and my healthy bacteria for digestion. But it's important!

Now you're done! To develop the probiotics from the whey or kraut juice, and to actually improve shelf-life, leave at room temperature for a couple hours before refrigeration. It sounds insane, but it is true.


Remember how we separated eggs earlier, and used mostly yolks? Well, now you have whites left over. You can save them for meringues, macaroons, macarons (they're different,) fish mousse, nuvolone, or use them right now in crab cakes!

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium.

Take some cooked crab - canned or frozen is fine. Mix gently with egg whites, salt, mustard, a spoonful of mayo, and seasoning you like - Old Bay or a similar seasoning mix works well here, or your own blend. Anything you like!

It might be pretty runny now. If you want to tighten it up, add a spoonful of coconut flour or some almond flour. Almond will add crunch, while coconut is super absorbent!

Taste, and adjust seasoning. It's okay - the crab is fully cooked and you're using eggs from a source you trust, right?

Add some ghee to your pan. Look how lovely and clear it is! Make small patties with the crab mixture, drop in the pan, and cook until brown on the bottom. Flip, finish cooking, and serve with a dollop of mayo and a simple, lovely salad.

Enjoy, and have a beautiful day!

Chef Mary

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