January 10, 2012

Corn and Crab Pudding

I'm amused by the correlation between age and Christmas gifts.  As a kid, you're so excited for Santa to bring you the latest toy, as you get a little older maybe you ask your parents for clothes or some sort of gadget, and then once you're an "adult," the gifts tend to be more functional.   As long as I can remember, when deciding on a gift to get our dad, we usually think of two things: 1) books, and 2) kitchen/cooking related items.  For the past few years, this has slowly become us: last year we were gifted a food processor, and this year, a blender (I sadly killed our cheap one a few months back...).

My mom also picked up (and surprised me with) some mini ramekins, which are one of those things I've eyed for a long time but never purchased- and aren't those items the BEST gifts?

And they even match our kitchen!
And then the question arose-- what exactly do you MAKE in these?  After some extensive internet browsing, I realized a lot of the recipes intended for ramekins are for dessert, but I also realized that non-ramekin recipes can easily be tweaked for these little guys.  I wanted something that could work as a side dish at dinner, and decided on a twist on corn pudding.  Technically, two twists: corn pudding is traditionally a mix of creamed corn, eggs, butter and milk, and I wanted something a little lighter.  I also wanted to add something to make it slightly more substantial (Counteractive? Perhaps.).  Thus, mini Corn-Crab Puddings were born.

Corn and Crab Pudding
Serves 4

1 cup milk (I used plain almond milk, since it was what I had)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more, if you like it hot)
1 egg
1 egg white OR 1/2 tablespoon flax meal + 1 1/2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 can (6 ounces) crab meat, drained
3/4 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels

Preheat your oven to 450.  In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.  Prepare the following four ingredients (cornmeal through cayenne pepper).  I used polenta, which is a coarsely ground cornmeal.  I like cornbreads with a rough grain- if you like a smooth cornbread/polenta, go with a fine to medium grind cornmeal.

Cornmeal, sugar, salt, cayenne
Once the milk is boiling, add these items to the pan, give it a good stir and allow it to simmer for five minutes.  Keep an eye on it, making sure it doesn't boil too high, and stir occasionally.  When it's done, you'll know- it should have a thickened consistency.  Remove it from the heat and let it cool for about ten minutes, until it's no longer steaming and you can comfortably touch it.

In a separate small bowl, combine your egg(s) and/or egg substitutes (ground flaxseeds for us), as well as the melted butter (be sure to cool it slightly before adding it-- you don't want scrambled eggs!) and baking powder.  Once this is well combined, stir in your corn kernels.  I used frozen sweet corn from Trader Joe's, which worked wonderfully since it is most definitely not corn season right now.  Stir the whole mix into the cornmeal.

Last but not least, the best part of the dish- crab meat.  While you could keep these vegetarian by adding slightly more corn, the crab meat turns them into a hybrid of corn muffin and crab cake, which is what makes these special.  I don't often cook with crab, so while I'm sure I'm committing some sort of crab crime here, I again turned to my friend Trader Joe for an inexpensive, easy alternative to fresh crab meat.

Gently incorporate the meat into the batter- you don't want to destroy any of the small lumps.  Plus, overmixing is never a good thing (something I've learned a little too slowly over the years).  Finally, butter your (1/2 cup) ramekins and carefully spoon in the batter until each is full.

If you don't have ramekins, don't worry-- you can still make this!  You can bake the entire batch in a souffle dish or a square baking pan, although you may need to double or triple the recipe depending on the size of the dish.

 Transfer the ramekins to the oven, and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.  Many of the recipes I've seen have the pudding bake at a lower temperature for an hour, but this will only increase the time until you can dig in- never my preference.

Remove the ramekins from the oven and serve immediately.  If, like me, you're busy plating the rest of the meal, a cooling rack works well until you can comfortably handle the ceramic bowls.

The 1/2 cup ramekins were the perfect serving size for a side dish, but they'd also work well as an appetizer for a longer meal.  If you have larger ramekins, these could even be altered a bit to serve as a main course (perhaps a bit of chopped spinach, broccoli, and bacon?).

I served them with roast chicken (my first attempt at a whole bird- incredibly easy and extra delicious) and asparagus.  While I wouldn't tackle all of these on a busy weeknight, it was fun to put in the extra effort for a special Sunday night meal.

I served the puddings directly in their ramekins, but once they're cool, you can easily remove them for a portable snack.  The texture changes once cold- a bit firmer compared to the fluffy texture of the warm version.  Both share the same slightly sweet flavor, attributed to both the sweet corn and the crab meat.  The whole corn kernels give you something to bite into, while the coarse cornmeal holds it together and provides good texture.

I'm now kind of in love with making everything I can think of in little individual ceramic dishes, but so far this has been my favorite- a recipe that doesn't take much expertise, but is far more impressive than a simple side of cornbread.  A fun mix of flavors from the deep South and the Mid-Atlantic, I'll definitely be making these again.  

If you have a favorite ramekin recipe, please share!

No comments:

Post a Comment