Have you ever tried using corn flour? Not cornmeal, which is its grainier counterpart and one word, but corn flour, which is a finer powder, and two words. Except if you are in the UK, where cornstarch is called cornflour, which I find to be horribly confusing.
I bought this product by mistake after reaching for chickpea flour, which looks pretty similar in the package. I assumed this powdery flour would yield a light result, so the first time I used it was in a pancake batter along with regular AP flour. The results were tragic: inedible and ugly brick pancakes stomped out of the skillet, with a rubbery yet dry texture that I’d never seen before. But rather than throw the flour away, I tried it again, using it as a coating for falafel. I rolled some of the falafel spheres in the corn flour, dunked it into some hot oil, and they emerged with a crispy, light and golden shell. I also tried it again in a pancake batter, but scaled the amount back to one tablespoon, which yielded a lighter, cornbread-scented result.
These experiments led me to use the corn flour as a coating on hearts of palm-based crab cakes. Hearts of palm is a new-to-me ingredient, although I’ve seen it in salad bars and used in faux crab cakes frequently. After giving it a rough chop, this product yields a flaky, faux-crabby texture that’s easy to combine with other chunky components.The outer layer of corn flour here complements the other flavors and textures perfectly, and produces a nicely textured shell that breaks easily with the tap of a fork.
Vegan Crab Cakes with Hearts of Palm
Yield 6 crab cakes
FOR THE CRAB CAKES
- 14 oz. can of hearts of palm (whole)
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1/2 tsp dried dill
- few pinches of salt
- 1/2 cup panko crumbs
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup frozen corn kernels
- 1/8 cup minced prepared roasted red pepper (gently squeeze some of the moisture out after mincing)
FOR PAN FRYING
- 3/4 cup corn flour
- oil, for pan frying
FOR THE SAUCE
- 1/4 cup sriracha OR 1/2 tsp dried dill, mixed with 1/4 cup Vegenaise OR prepared sweet ginger chili sauce
- Place the hearts of palm into a food processor and pulse three times. You'll want the mixture to be broken up, but still a little chunky. (You can also gently mash with a fork.) Transfer the the mixture to a medium-sized bowl.
- Add the Old Bay, dill and salt and gently stir to coat. Fold in the rest of the crab cake ingredients. Cover and allow to refrigerate for about an hour or up to overnight.
- When you are ready to make the crab cakes, place the corn flour into a shallow wide bowl. Place a pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat for about 3 minutes.
- While you are preheating your pan, divide the crab cake mixture in half, then form 3 equal portions from each half to create 6 equal-sized portions. Roll them into balls, then flatten them out between your palms a bit. Gently place them, one by one, into the corn flour until well coated, tapping off any extra. They will be really fragile, so if they break apart, just gently reshape and redust with the flour as needed.
- Coat the bottom of the pan with oil, wait one minute, then gently place the crab cakes into the hot pan. Pan fry for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to slightly drain.
- You can also bake these crab cakes. Just preheat a cast iron pan in a 450 degree oven. Drizzle the bottom of the pan with oil and place the dusted crab cakes into it. Flip so the tops are slightly oiled, and bake on each side for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
- Serve immediately with the sriracha-Vegenaise, dill-Vegenaise or other prepared dressing.