Monday, December 30, 2013

A Very Vegan Gluten-Free Christmas: Heart of Palm "Crab" Cakes

Today's appetizers brought to you by the letter "N"!
This Christmas, I returned to the kitchen where it all started. As always, my sister refused to let me become complacent in my cooking skills. Following the "Very Vegan" Christmas challenge of 2011, my sister added a gluten-free constraint to this year's festivities. Initially my response was "God, you're the worst," but I was ready to take it head (or, more specifically, mouth) on (with only mild cheating).

Would I be able to overcome these culinary constraints and my adorable nephew who was hellbent on stealing my glasses and trapping us in the kitchen with his walker, or would I be found trying to drown my sorrows in the bottom of a glass of soy seasonal nog?

Heart of Palm "Crab" Cakes
Adapted from Olives for Dinner
Servings: 8-10 cakes
Time: 90 minutes (inactive for 60 of that)

Gluten-free sriracha and panko options
Crab Cakes
14 oz. can hearts of palm (whole)
1 tsp Cajun Seasoning (or Old Bay plus salt)
1/2 cup gluten-free panko crumbs
1/4+ cup chopped scallions
1/4+ cup frozen corn kernels
1/8+ cup minced roasted red peppers (gently squeezed dry)
Corn flour
Oil for pan frying

Cajun Seasoning

Seriously, the resemblance to actual crab cakes is uncanny. It even looks more real than the fake crab stuff they put in California rolls.

  1. Pulse the heart of palm in a food processor ~ 3 times or mash it with a fork. Don't overdo it. You still want some chunks. 
  2. Coat the heart of palm well with your cajun seasoning. Then mix in the panko crumbs, chopped scallions, frozen corn and minced roasted red pepper.
  3. Sit in awe of how much this looks like crab.
  4. Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.
  5. Preheat your oven to 200-250 F.
  6. Heat up oil (enough to cover the bottom of a pan) over medium heat (test with flour to see when it is ready).
  7. Separate the mixture into equally sized round balls and gently flatten down with your palm.
  8. Coat the entire cake in corn flour, making sure to remove any excess. Be careful because these will be very fragile.
  9. Pan fry the crab cakes until golden (about 2-3 minutes per side).
  10. Transfer finished cakes to a plate covered with paper towels to drain off excess oil.
  11. Place drained crab cakes on a baking sheet and cover with aluminum foil in the oven to keep warm.
  12. Mix the sauce by combining ~equal portions of sriracha and vegenaise with cajun seasoning to taste until smooth. 
  13. Sit in awe of how awesome these taste.
Naked, freshly formed crab cakes (this one then fell apart 10 times on the way to frying).
Once I saw how awesome the crab cakes looked, I started to get excited, and biting into them only reinforced this. These tasted just like the real thing. The heart of palm gave it the perfect texture, while the cajun seasoning gave it just the right amount of kick and salt. Not to be forgotten, the corn, scallions and red pepper really helped round things out. These were fried to a nice crispness that wasn't overwhelmingly battered and really let us enjoy the tasty heart of palm center. 

The sauce reminded me of a spicier Cane's sauce, which means I reached one of my life's goals!
These delightful faux seafood discs (trademark pending) would've been fantastic on their own, but the sauce really helped bring things to another level. The vegenaise provided a nice, smooth and slightly thick sauce, while the sriracha and cajun seasoning added just the right amount of fiery excitement to the mix. It really managed to compliment the crab cakes without overpowering them.
And then it struck me. This would definitely look way fancier with a random "N" drizzled on it!
We were off to a surprisingly great start to our vegan gluten-free adventure. Our crab cakes were the perfect compliment to our main Louisiana course of okra gumbo, and lowercase "q" had only managed to steal my glasses once!

Stay tuned for more delicious holiday adventures that we can pretend are 100% healthy because they don't contain gluten or animal products! That totally cancels out frying. Totally...

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