Panko (Recipe: crab cakes)
It sounds like a dance step, or a karate maneuver, or some kind of face cream. Or the password for entry to a secret club. Or a new exercise regimen (you know, like pilates....).
Do you panko?
A relatively recent addition to my pantry, panko is a relatively new food product, introduced to the market around 1970. Panko means "bread crumbs" in Japanese; it comes from the combination of pan, or "bread," and ko, meaning "child of" or "derived from". This particular type of jagged-edged breadcrumb has a coarse texture that resembles flakes; because the flakes have more surface area, they get crispier than regular breadcrumbs when used as a coating. Panko is more delicate, absorbs less oil, and stays crunchier for longer, too.
Panko, made from wheat bread, comes in "white" and "tan" varieties; the tan color results from the inclusion of the bread crusts in the crumb. Asian Grocer sells honey panko, sweetened with honey and sugar; I've never tried it. Because regular panko has no real flavor of its own, it loves to be combined with seasonings — fresh or dried herbs, hot peppers, or grated cheese.
You can use panko in most any recipe calling for breadcrumbs, especially with seafood and vegetables. If you don't have either panko or regular breadcrumbs, try crushed cracker meal or melba toast.
Jennifer's criminal crab cakes
This is my friend Jennifer's crab cake recipe. I couldn't resist adding some Old Bay, and I substituted panko for regular bread crumbs, which resulted in a very light crab cake. Makes 8 large or 12 small crab cakes.
1/2 onion, diced
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 shakes Worcestershire sauce
3 shakes Tabasco or other hot sauce, or more to taste
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1-1/4 cups panko or breadcrumbs
1 lb fresh lump crab meat, picked over to remove any bits of shell
Olive oil for frying
In a small frying pan, sauté onion in butter until translucent. Remove from pan to a large bowl, and let the onions cool. Then, beat in the egg, mayo, mustard, Worcestershire, Tabasco, Old Bay, black pepper and panko. Fold in the crab meat. Form into 8 large patties, and place on a plate. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Film the bottom of a large (12-inch) frying pan, and heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the crab cakes and cook, without moving, 5 minutes or until the bottoms are brown. Then turn and cook the second side, 5 minutes or until brown. Remove from the pan and let drain on a plate covered with a paper towel, to remove excess oil. Serve hot, with tartar sauce.