Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Week 9 - From a Can

A bit behind on the 52 week cooking challenge recaps (even if I'm up to date on the challenge), but time to get back into it. The Week 9 challenge was from a can, which didn't mean every single ingredient had to come from a can, but the majority or at least the main ingredients should. Back when the theme was first announced, I had just made and posted about a dinner that was made almost entirely with canned and pantry items (the chorizo rice casserole here), so I couldn't make that again for the challenge but would have to come up with something else. We had 2 cans of crab meat in the pantry so I decided to make some crab cakes, and for vegetables, pair it with a cajun corn maque choux that I was originally going to make to celebrate Mardi Gras but didn't because we had too many Chinese New Year leftovers.


I based the crab cakes on this Allrecipes recipe and mostly followed this Southern Living recipe for the cajun corn maque choux, making adaptations along the way. The ingredients that we used were:

For the crab cakes:
- 5 scallions ($0.65)
- 2 small cans of crab meat ($3.98)
- 1 beaten egg ($0.17)
- 1 tbsp mayo ($0.10)
- 1 large spoonful of whole grain mustard ($0.10)
- buttery round crackers, crushed (about a column of crackers) ($0.67)
- about 1/2 tsp cayenne ($0.03)
- about 1 tsp garlic powder ($0.03)
- a few dashes of Old Bay seasoning (free - had some old sample packets from an Orioles game)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- panko bread crumbs to coat the cakes ($1)

For the cajun corn maque choux:
- 1 onion ($0.60)
- 1 green bell pepper ($0.99)
- olive oil for sauteing ($0.15)
- 5 scallions ($0.65)
- about 1 lb of chicken andouille with cheddar cheese ($4.50)
- 2 cans corn ($1.78)
- 2 cans Rotel (or 1 can Rotel, 1 can diced tomatoes) ($1.60)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)

The overall cost for everything was about $17.10 ($6.78 for the crab cakes and $10.32 for the maque choux). Not a cheap dinner compared to our usual costs. The andouille was a big part of the cost (and even more when I made it a second time recently), but the quality is excellent and it's worth it. But the cost also explains why in the future I didn't pair the maque choux with something like crab cakes and we just ate it on its own with some grains.

Baked Crab Cakes

The crab cakes were relatively easy to put together. The steps were basically:

1. Prep - chop green onions, beat egg.

2. Saute green onions very briefly (maybe a minute) in a small saute pan.

3. Combine in a bowl: sauteed green onions, drained crab meat, beaten egg, mayo, mustard, cayenne, garlic powder, Old Bay, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste if needed.

4. Crush the crackers and add to the mixture. (I did this in parts to make sure there wouldn't be too many cracker crumbs compared to everything else.)

5. Form the mixture into patties about 1/2 inch thick. (As you can see, there was a little leftover at the end, but because of step number 6, it wasn't very easy to just combine it with the existing patties to make them bigger.)

6. Coat the patties in panko and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. (I combined what was left of the crab mixture at the end with what was left of the panko and basically just made a crab panko ball.)

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes per side.

Overall, we didn't love the crab cakes. Part of that could be the crab meat itself. We've bought these cans before (see the crab toast here) and thought the crab was okay, but in these crab cakes, the first couple of bites were kind of fishy before our tongues got desensitized to the flavor. There's probably a reason these cans of crab are so much cheaper than the refrigerated canned crab, and we probably won't get them again since we don't like it that much. The crab cakes were just okay, edible but not incredibly flavorful (other than the fishiness) and a little dry (maybe baked them a little too long). Probably won't make these again.

Cajun Corn Maque Choux

We were pretty excited for the maque choux in part because we had been thinking about it for a couple of weeks since the time we were originally going to make it, and in part because I picked up this chicken andouille with cheddar cheese that we had never tried before from our local meat market. The recipe had called for 1/4 pound, I requested 1/3 pound from the guy at the counter, and he ended up giving me almost a pound. It turned out to be for the best since even with almost a pound of sausage, it didn't seem like that much next to all of the vegetables.

The steps for making the maque choux (adapted a bit from the original recipe) were:

1. Prep - chop onion, chop bell pepper, chop scallions, chop andouille.

2. Heat oil in large skillet (the one I used for the challenge was not big enough to make it easy to stir but the second time I made it (yes, I made it again before finishing this post) I used a deeper skillet which was perfect) and saute onion and green pepper until tender.

3. Add the corn and Rotel and mix together.

4. While the vegetables are cooking, saute the andouille in a small skillet until cooked through and a little browned.

5. Add andouille when cooked to everything else, and cook together for about 10-15 minutes. (Depends how much liquid is in the pan. The first time, it cooked for a while, but the second time, there was barely any liquid at this point so it didn't need as much time.)

6. Add green onions, salt and pepper, and cook for another 5-10 minutes or so (again, dependent on how much liquid is in the pan).

We were big fans of the maque choux (not surprising since I've already mentioned we made this again). The andouille sausage had such good flavor - full of spices and creamy melted cheddar cheese - so the dish packed a punch. Outside of the andouille, it was a pretty healthy dish too, full of vegetables. One of the recipes I saw referred to it as a Cajun succotash, which is so true. On top of all the good flavors, it definitely passes the color test.

Overall, dinner was pretty good. The crab cakes tasted a lot better once I started eating bites combined with a little bit of the maque choux, which was the clear winner between the 2 dishes. The crab cakes may not be making it into the regular rotation, but the maque choux definitely will.

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