Crab Cakes with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

It's finally GREEN outside!

It’s finally GREEN outside!

No more talk about cold weather, it is finally spring! The crabapple trees are flowering, the lilacs are in bloom, I’ve been hiking, and the lawn has been mowed twice!

I made these crab cakes a couple of weeks ago, and I think they are restaurant quality–or at least guest quality! So, a story. I was excited to find a pound of crabmeat in the fish section of the supermarket for $10. And it wasn’t until I looked at the label, and noticed it was claw meat, not lump crabmeat. That container was another $10. I’d definitely splurge if serving guests, but if it’s just dinner for the family, the claw meat is a good, less expensive substitute. Perhaps not as flavorful, but it was still delicious.

So being springtime, before it gets too warm, make a batch of these and have an al fresco evening with crab cakes atop fresh lettuce and a crisp glass of white wine. You won’t be sorry!

Crab Cakes with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 2 crab cakes and 2 tablespoons dressing)

Crab cakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1/3 cup whole buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley, divided
1 teaspoon minced fresh dill, divided
Bibb lettuce leaves


1. To prepare crab cakes, combine first 6 ingredients (through egg) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in panko. Add crabmeat; stir gently to combine. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes.

2. Divide crab mixture into 8 equal portions; gently shape each portion into a 3/4-inch-thick patty. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 4 patties to pan; cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove patties from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil and remaining 4 patties.

3. To prepare dressing, combine buttermilk and next 4 ingredients (through garlic), stirring with a whisk. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons chives, 3/4 teaspoon parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon dill. Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter; top with crab cakes. Spoon dressing over crab cakes; sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons chives, remaining 3/4 teaspoon parsley, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon dill.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
I feel as if I’m the last person in the country who has never been to a Trader Joe’s grocery store—until last weekend! For months, I’ve been waiting with excitement for the first Trader Joe’s to open in Vermont. Crazy me, because my day plans had changed, I went up on Day Two at 1 p.m., prime lunch hour! And thought I would do a week’s worth of grocery shopping! It was incredibly busy, with people more window shopping than food shopping, but I made it through the aisles and wasn’t disappointed. Prices were extremely fair and I ended up getting most everything on my list! I also like that there isn’t a lot of variety; even though I love food and love to cook, sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the choices for just one product in the grocery store. The location is away from my regular route, but I have a feeling I’ll be taking the long way home and stopping by after work during the week to get groceries!

Chicken Stew With Old South Buttermilk Biscuits

DSCN0703I feel quite fortunate to live near Diane St. Clair’s Animal Farm in Orwell. Recently interviewed on the radio show “The Splendid Table,” St. Clair has a small herd of  just ten Jersey cows. I heard about her years ago when I read Thomas Keller uses only her butter in his Per Se restaurant in Manhattan. Sometimes her butter is sold at the coop, but I’ve only been able to get it once because it sells like hot cakes when it’s on the shelf.

The conversation between St. Clair and host Lynn Rosetto Kasper revolved around her new cookbook, The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cook Book, which focuses on her latest project, buttermilk. Today’s buttermilk sold in stores is made mostly of low-fat or skim milk with added cultures. St. Clair’s buttermilk is just that, the leftover milk that remains after making butter.

After hearing the interview, I saw the coop also sells St. Clair’s buttermilk and I was able to buy a quart. When I was very small, I remember milk delivered to my home and sometimes we would get buttermilk. While there was a little tang to it,  it also had a rich creaminess to it, and St. Clair’s tasted just like I remembered. Since I bought this small bottle of liquid gold, I wanted to use it in something where it would shine. So I thought of buttermilk biscuits. Chicken pie suppers are popular in the fall, and since I didn’t go to the one I usually attend, I thought I’d make some chicken stew to accompany the biscuits. It made for a homey and delicious meal.

Helpful Kitchen Hint: Full disclosure, I made two batches of these biscuits. The first batch, we each had one, and the rest made their way to the compost pile; they weren’t biscuits, they were hockey pucks! So pay attention to rolling them out to ¼ inch in thickness; the first batch I rolled it like pie crust, so when baked they were thin and hard. The second time I made these, I pulled out a larger biscuit cutter, and paid attention to the thickness. I only got 12 out of the batch, but they were perfect; airy, with paper-thin layers, just the way they should be! 

The chicken stew was something I created one Sunday night. I had put together the ingredients in my head and thought I knew how it would come out and I wasn’t disappointed. And eating the leftovers a couple of evenings later with the “real” batch of biscuits was even better!


The second batch of biscuits. Look how light and airy they look!

Old South Buttermilk Biscuits
From The Essential New York Times Cook Book, by Amanda Hesser

Yes, I bought Crisco to make these biscuits. I honestly didn’t know how butter would work in combination with the buttermilk, so I decided to stay true to the recipe. 

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
¾ cup buttermilk, or more as needed
Whole milk for brushing (optional)

  1. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Grease a baking sheet. Sift together the dry ingredients twice into a bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles course cornmeal.
  2. Add enough buttermilk to produce a soft dough, and stir until the mixture forms a ball. Knead lightly in the bowl until the dough holds together, about 30 seconds.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and roll to ¼ inch thick. Cut out biscuits with a small biscuit cutter and put on the greased baking sheet. If a glazed surface is desired, brush the tops with milk.
  4. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 1 to 2 dozen biscuits, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter.

Cook’s Notes: 

Hesser says she used low-fat buttermilk, so she added 2 more tablespoons of shortening, so 6 in total.
• I didn’t use the milk to glaze the biscuits. Not necessary, in my opinion.
• My biscuit cutters were about 3 inches, so it made for just one dozen.
• If you don’t have a flour sifter, don’t worry; I put all my dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisked the flour for a minute or so. A perfect solution!

DSCN0708Chicken Stew
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
½ cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen chopped green beans (or fresh)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons light cream or milk
Splash of white wine, optional
Freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste

  1. In a large Dutch oven, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until they are barely soft. Add the carrots, peas and green beans. Stir and cook for about five minutes.
  2. Add the chicken breasts, broth, and wine, if using. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat and cook for about 15 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and milk or cream. Add it to the stew and stir until it starts getting thick.  Add salt and pepper and serve with the biscuits.

Cook’s Note:
• I prefer my stew to be on the thicker side rather than thin. Add a little more broth if you like it thinner.
• Some serve biscuits on the bottom of a deep-dish bowl with the stew on top and some serve the biscuits on top. I prefer them on the bottom, that way the stew can make the biscuits nice and soft.