Saturday, November 12, 2011
Crab Cakes Extravaganza
Originally, I wanted to make Manhattan Clam Chowder. A nod to the seafood available on the Mid-Atlantic coast, recognition of the produce grown in the fertile farmlands of Pennsylvannia and New Jersey. But we have a no shellfish policy at our school because of the serious allergies some of our students live with.
Plan B: I decided we would make crab cakes with fake crab, which is really Alaskan pollock. Real crab is going for $16/pound, so this made good economic sense, too.
Flash forward to the beginning of last week. My fridge at home is filled with six packages of fake crab and I have just read the label and discovered that there is actually 2% snow crab mixed in with the pollock. Whoops.
This is where I pride myself on thinking outside the box. Of course, before I could get my brain out of the box I had a mini meltdown and then called several groceries stores asking them to check the ingredient list on their fake crab. They all told me there's some real crab mixed in. I finally dragged myself out of the box and consider alternative venues for cooking. The town library is a short walk down the road from the school and happens to have a fully functioning kitchen in the back. One phone call later and I secured permission to cook there on Thursday afternoon.
Thursday at 1:30 my class walked down the road along with my right and left hand ladies, Su and Colleen. We set up three stations in the kitchen and the back part of the library and each adult worked with five or six students mixing up the ingredients and forming crab cake patties.
As groups finished we melted butter in a couple of pans and Su stood vigil in front of them. The original plan was to have her fry up the patties herself, but several kids opted to stay in the kitchen and help with this step so Su ended up managing the kids: translation who gets to put which patties in which pans when. I don't think she got a chance to touch a spatula with so many eager helpers! I overheard one student say something along the lines of, "I've never had crab cakes before but these smell good so I am going to try them."
In the meantime, I cleaned up. Colleen met with the rest of the kids in a cozy part of the library that includes rocking chairs and a comfy couch. We are just starting to learn about the southeastern states and as Colleen lived in Louisiana for a couple years, she was able to regale the kids with tales of alligator, gumbo and grits.
Originally I had planned to have all the kids interview Colleen about this wide array of southern foods, but I appreciated that the flow of the afternoon allowed some self selection so that kids who are very motivated about cooking got some extra time completing the recipe. I also really liked that everyone got to see the whole recipe through from mixing ingredients to forming the patties.
Almost everyone tried at least a little bit, about two thirds of the class opted to eat a whole patty, and a handful of crab cake devotees finished off the extras. We ended by talking about the difference between fresh caught fish and grocery store fish and tried to imagine what a crab cake made with fresh caught real crab might taste like...
A huge thank you to Lisa at the library, who graciously allowed us to descend on her calm library for an hour and a half and didn't blink at the mess we made (and ultimately cleaned up.)