Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday, April 12 - Easter - Jerusalem Artichoke Soup and Crabcakes

A slice of the Vanilla Bean cheese cake shown whole yesterday.

Before dinner I made prawn crackers. I bought them in Bali. You can get them in some asian supermarkets. They're hilarous and great for kids. They come in boxes here and often in multiple colours. Prawn crackers, normally rice based, are served at every meal as a standard in Indonesia. They come in different flavours, sizes and textures. Here we normally see them in junkfood bags or in the eggshell white colour the size of chips made in Thai restaurants. Uncooked, they are about the size of a walnut and have the hard plastic texture of a dried up piece of rice. Heat some oil up, peanut oil or canola, high smoking temperature. Ideally, deep frying works best but really, who has a deep fryer at home anymore right? A centimeter of oil is fine and you can seive and re use. Have a plate with a piece of newspaper topped with a paper towel for absorbing oil. Have a splatter guard ready. D suggested we video tape it. He was doubtful as to why I was so excited about showing him this but he was super amused.

Place them spread apart in the hot oil. It is immediate they puff up. Lift them out of the oil with a strainer or thongs before browning. I was not as deft as I should have been because the last time I did this I had a deep fryer :-D. MMMMM tastes of Bali. Of course you might want to have some incense around. The house smells of deep fried prawn crackers now and that's after we made dinner afterwards as well!

We bought Jerusalem Artichokes, also called Sunchokes, at the Wise Hall Farmer's Market on Saturday. It's about the only place we've found them. Well, I've seen them at Granville Island but they're usually quite small and very expensive. I mean really, after peeling, there'd be nothing left. It's best to buy them in season, winter and the farmer's markets if you can. Otherwise, look for ones that are about the size of chunks of ginger or fingerling potatoes.
They're really great. Very aromatic and really do taste of fresh articokes. The soup we made has alot of leeks but they both stand up on their own for taste in the soup. Or perhaps, they are complimenting eachother's taste. Either way this is a great soup. If you're worried about the fat, you could try leaving the cream out. It does make the soup quite luxurious though. When you're in some of the smaller specialty grocers, you might mistake small taro's for sunchokes, be sure to ask. They're not at all the same thing but the skin looks similar. Texture wise, taro skin is alot barkier. Jerusalem Artichoke and Leek Soup

8 cups (or more) canned low-salt veggie broth
1 pound Jerusalem artichokes
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 leeks, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried savory (you can substitute with Thyme and Sage)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (inch of fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 green onion (dark green part only), chopped


Wash the leeks thoroughly after slicing. Sand and dirt can get right into the layers. Rinse and then soak in a mixing bowl with cold water.

Sautee the leeks in some butter in a dutch oven until soft. Add the sunchokes (peeled and sliced into 1/3rd inch slices, garlic and the diced potato. Bring 8 cups broth to boil add to pot. Add the savory and ginger. Cover pan and simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in marjoram; cool about 20 minutes.

Purée soup in the pot with a handblender until smooth. Bring soup to simmer. Add cream. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors, thinning with more broth if soup is too thick. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm soup over medium-low heat before continuing.) Ladle soup into bowls; sprinkle with sprinkle with green onion and serve.

Spicy Lemon Crab Cakes REAL STUFF ONLY, NO pollock or crabstick. Use canned salmon or tuna before you think of using crabstick. Seriously. We bought a decent amount of fresh picked cooked, lump crab meat from Choices. Quite a deal really. You don't need that much to make a decent crab cake and it's so worth it.

3/4 c fresh bread crumbs. (just blitz some bread in a processor, or buy, not a biggie on the crumbs)
1/3 c mayonnaise
1/4 c thinly sliced green onions
1 t grated lemon peel
1/4 t cayenne pepper (I'll try to sneak some extra in while D isn't looking :-P)
1 lb crab meat (well drained if you're using canned)

3 T olive oil

Mix first five ingredients in a large bowl. Add crabmeat and stir gently to combine. Shape mixture into 8 1/2 inch thick cakes. Transfer to foil lined baking sheet or non stick baking sheet. Refridgerate. (you can do this well ahead) We only made half this batch. 2 each about the size of hockey puck.

Heat oil in a non stick pan over medium heat. Cook in batches. Don't crowd your pan. Cook until golden brown on the bottom and turn over. About 4 minutes a side. Now there isn't alot of filler like the cheaper or bulk restaurant variety so they are delicate. Use a lubed wide spatula. You can place on the papertowel from the prawncrackers or hold on the spatula and pat with the papertowl. Don't expect it to hold together like the manufactured kind. These will actually taste of crab. Very delicate and SOOOOO YUMMMMY!

We're going to serve this with the cous cous from yesterday if I'm still craving carbs.

With this meal, we had a beautiful spanish white:

PARES BALTA BLANCA de PACS 2007 from the PENEDES region north of Barcelona. Very light and crisp. It couldn't have complimented the meal better. Very apply and pears. D like to let hit warm up a bit but I liked it nice and cold. See picture above.

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