DEAR SOS: I thought I tasted the best crab cakes until I tried the ones at Spago recently. Do you suppose chef Wolfgang Puck would divulge the recipe?
DEAR JESSICA: Yes, he would and did. These crab cakes are, indeed, terrific. They are served on a bed of red pepper sauce, but you can serve the sauce separately as well. If Louisiana blue crab meat is unavailable, use any other. Any lettuce may be substituted for arugula (rocket).
SPAGO CRAB CAKES
1/4 red onion, diced
1/4 large sweet red pepper, diced
1/4 large yellow pepper, diced
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 jalapeno chile, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon chopped chives
1/2 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1 to 2 sprigs thyme, leaves only
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup almond meal
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 pounds Louisiana blue crab meat
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 pound arugula
Red Pepper Sauce
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet. Add diced onion and peppers and saute until onions are translucent. Cool.
Simmer cream with chile over medium-high heat until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Cool.
Pour cooled cream into onion mixture. Stir in cayenne, chives, parsley, thyme, 1/3 cup bread crumbs, 1/3 cup almond meal and salt to taste. Add beaten egg. Add crab meat and mix thoroughly.
Combine remaining crumbs and almond meal on plate. Shape crab mixture into 12 small round cakes. Bread each side with bread crumb mixture and chill 2 hours.
Just before serving, saute crab cakes in about 2 tablespoons hot oil and 1 tablespoon butter 4 minutes on each side. Remove to paper towel.
Mix 1/4 cup olive oil with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Toss with arugula. Place salad in center of each plate. Pour Red Pepper Sauce around and place 2 crab cakes on top. Makes 6 servings.
Red Pepper Sauce
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 large sweet red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 sprigs thyme, leaves only
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup whipping cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Heat 3 tablespoons butter in saucepan until foamy. Saute onion, pepper, garlic and thyme until vegetables are tender. Deglaze pan with white wine and reduce until thick. Add cream, bring to boil and puree in blender until smooth. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper to taste and lemon juice. Strain and keep warm.
DEAR SOS: I would really appreciate a good recipe for Boston Cream Pie. I haven't had one in the years since we moved to California, and it would be such a nice surprise for my husband, who has been asking for the cake lately.
DEAR ARLENE: Yes, we've missed seeing this old-fashioned cake on the West Coast, although I doubt it is making many rounds on the East Coast, either. The pie, actually a layer cake of sponge, custard and chocolate topping, was at its peak of popularity during the first half of the century when Boston cream pies could be found easily at most any coffee shop or restaurant.
The recipe, by the way, is from the excellent basic cookbook, "The New Doubleday Cookbook," which gives several options for the type of cake and filling you can use.
BOSTON CREAM PIE
2 (9-inch) layers butter cake, sponge cake or made from yellow cake mix
Vanilla Cream Filling, double cream (Devonshire) or 1 1/2 cups sweetened whipped cream
Sandwich cake layers together with Vanilla Cream Filling or other desired filling given. Spread Chocolate Glaze on top and let stand until glaze hardens. Store in refrigerator. Makes 16 servings.
Basic Vanilla Cream Filling
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blend cornstarch, sugar and milk in small saucepan and heat, stirring constantly, over moderate heat until mixture boils and thickens. Boil and stir 1/2 minute longer. Remove from heat.
Beat small amount of hot mixture (about 1/4 cup) into egg yolk, then return to pan gradually, beating constantly. Mix in vanilla and cool to room temperature, beating now and then.
2 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon butter or margarine
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
3 tablespoons warm water
Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler over simmering water. Stir to blend well. Set top of double boiler on damp cloth, add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Beat until smooth. Add remaining sugar and water and beat until glossy.