Food & Culture: Kirsten and Mandy Dixon's crab cakes Benedict

Food & CultureJanuary 10, 2014 

Chefs Kirsten and Mandy Dixon prefer to cook in the woods.

The mother-daughter Alaskan duo were recently in Anchorage but are soon headed back to their remote Winterlake Lodge for the winter season. The lakeside property lies at the entrance to Rainy Pass along the Iditarod trail and is accessible only by floatplane. At the lodge, guests can try activities like dog mushing and cross-country skiing and dine on gourmet meals like seafood paella and brioche French toast made by the Dixons themselves. It's a vacation dream come true, though at $1,050 per full day and night stay (airfare included), you may need to start saving your pennies now.

It was over 30 years ago that Kirsten and her husband Carl decided to take a path less traveled. Today they are the owners of two lodges, a cooking school, a home goods boutique and La Baleine Café on the Homer Spit. The chefs been featured in heavyweight cooking magazines such as Bon Apetit, Food & Wine, and Saveur, as well as the Food Network and Travel Channel.

Before leaving for the lodge, Kirsten and Mandy hosted a cooking demonstration in Anchorage Jan. 4. As part of Spenard Builders Supply's free cooking demo series, the Dixons showed an audience of over 100 salivating attendees how to prepare their recipe for crab cakes Benedict.

It was standing-room-only, but the attentive audience didn't seem to mind. Many took notes furiously. Others yelled out questions.

Kirsten acted as entertainer, hostess and teacher, while Mandy demonstrated the cooking techniques.

"This is a celebratory and luxurious dish," Kirsten told the crowd. "It doesn't matter what kind of crab you use, except it should be Alaskan."

The hour-long demo was a mix of food science, cooking tips and general commentary on our food system. People walked away knowing the difference between the molecules in stainless steel and aluminum mixing bowls, why unsalted butter is usually fresher and the secret to perfectly poaching an egg.

Kirsten was unexpectedly funny. Her dialogue included affectionate quips at her mother, who was in the audience: "A metal strainer is necessary... especially for mom's gravy." She also touched on more serious topics including food safety, organic food and the importance of buying local.

Both of the Dixons are passionate about experiencing Alaska through the flavors of our seasonal and regional ingredients. They are finishing their latest cookbook of ocean-based recipes from their Tutka Bay Lodge at the southern end of Kachemak Bay. Called "The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook -- Coastal Cuisine from the Wilds of Alaska," it should be out by October 2014.

Crab cakes Benedict
Recipe by chefs Kirsten and Mandy Dixon
From "The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook -- Coastal Cuisine from the Wilds of Alaska"

For the crab cakes:

Dixons say: Crab cake recipes are often full of bread and other fillers. We just use some scallop meat (or alternatively, shrimp) to bind the crab together.

  • ½ pound scallops
  • 1 pound picked Alaska lump crabmeat
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 English muffins
  • Hollandaise sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Puree the scallops in a food processor. Drain the crabmeat and wring it dry using a moistened cheesecloth so it won't stick. Coarsely dice the crabmeat if necessary. Put the crab and scallops into the mixing bowl. Add in the shallot, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley. Mix well. Season the crab mixture with salt and pepper. The scallops should add enough textural glue to hold the crab cakes together but they will be delicate.
  2. Form the crab into 3-4-inch cakes. Place them on a plastic-wrapped small baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the plastic wrap from the crab cakes and place the pan in the center rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 3-5 minutes or until the cakes are just crisp on the edges and warmed through.
Alternatively, you could fry crab cakes on the stove. Use unsalted butter instead of oil for best results.

Makes four to six crab cakes.

 

For the Hollandaise sauce:

Dixons say: We prefer a lemony-flavored Hollandaise sauce for our crab cakes, but you could add in herbs such as tarragon or, for a little luxury, a bit of orange zest.

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
 

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Let it froth and bubble for 7-10 minutes. The milk solids will begin to caramelize in the bottom of the pan. Plunge the saucepan in a bowl of cold water to immediately cool it down. Pour off the clarified butter, leaving the milky solids in the bottom of the pan.
  2. Place the egg yolks, hot sauce and lemon juice into a blender. Blend until the mixture is foamy and slightly stiffened.
  3. With the blender running, gradually add the clarified butter in a thin stream. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
  4. The sauce should be served within an hour. Keep in a warm spot. Makes one and a half cups of sauce.
To assemble the crab cakes Benedict:

Toast the English muffins. Place one English muffin half onto a plate. Add on top one crab cake. Place a poached egg on top of the crab cake. Drizzle Hollandaise on top.

 

Spenard Builders Supply "Bon Appetit" Gourmet Chef Cooking Demos
Free and open to the public
10 a.m.-11 a.m.

  • Jan. 18, Reuben Gerber, Crow's Nest
  • Feb. 1, Rob Kinneen, Crush Wine & Bistro
  • Feb. 15, Jason Porter, Alyeska Hotel/Seven Glaciers
  • March 8, Antoine Amouret, Paris Bakery & Café
  • March 22, Suzette Lord
  • April 5, Frans Weitz, Jack Sprat
 

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