Crab cakes with a spring salsa… recipe and pairings.


So I was craving a little surf and turf last night and decided to make a grilled ribeye and crab cakes. For a twist, and to offset the richness of the thickly marbled ribeye and the crab cakes, I made what I call a spring salsa, which has strawberry, cucumber and mint.

Below is the recipe for the crab cake and salsa, as well as some wine pairings. However, keep in mind that the pairings are geared towards the cakes and salsa by themselves. If you are using them to accompany other items, such as my steak last night, that will most likely change the ideal wine pairings.

Makes six crab cakes.

Ingredients (crab cakes):
16oz Crabmeat
1/3c Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1/3c Japalpeno with seeds, chopped
1/3c Red Onion, chopped
1/2c Mayonnaise
1c Unseasoned Panko
1tsp Salt
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Paprika
1/2tsp Garlic Powder

1tbsp Olive Oil (for sautéing)

Ingredients (salsa):
1/2c Fresh Strawberries, diced
1/2c Cucumber, peeled and diced
1/8c Fresh Mint, chiffonade
1 1/2tbsp Granulated Sugar
1tsp Salt
1tbsp Lemon Juice

First thing to do is make the salsa so it has a chance to rest in the fridge and start to sweat. Simply combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.  The strawberry and cucumber will start to release juices which will give the salsa a more pronounced flavor. Allow the salsa to rest in the fridge for at least 90 minutes, stirring it every 30 minutes or so.

Now onto the crab cakes. Simply combine all of the ingredients (minus the olive oil) in a large bowl, stirring everything together thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. This gives the panko time to soak in some of the moisture from the crab and mayonnaise for better texture and flavor.

Heat your oven to 350F.

Separate the crab mixture into six equal portions and roll into balls, Press down lightly on the balls to form a cake shape, press in lightly on the sides to smooth any breaks and strengthen the integrity of the cake. Heat your oil at medium high in a sauté pan. You want your pan hot so the cakes don’t absorb too much oil, but you don’t want it too hot or the panko will immediately burn. Sauté the cakes until golden brown then flip and repeat. Once both sides are browned put the cakes in the oven for 10 minutes to finish. Once they’re out of the oven plate ’em up, top them with the spring salsa and enjoy!

So let’s talk wine pairings. Remember what I said above, these recommended pairings are based solely on the crab cakes and salsa. If you’re having them with something else then it could very easily change what the ideal pairing would be. For instance, I had mine with a heavily marbled steak glazed with sriracha. With the varying flavor profiles on the plate my ideal pairing was a Russian River Zinfandel by Limerick Lane. BUT, if I was just having the cakes and salsa that would not have been the direction I went.

Ideally what you want here is a white, red or rose with light to medium body that has a good blend of fruit and acidity, with little to no oak presence on the palate. The things that immediately pop into my mind are Vin Gris, Fiano, Gewurtztraminer, Torrontes, Frappato, and Gamay.

Sean Minor Four Bears Vin Gris, Carneros, CA – So this is not the first time I’m talking about Sean’s Vin Gris on here (see my previous article The Vin Gris is made from 100% Pinot Noir from Carneros. In the glass you find a light bodied wine with a pale salmon hue… not entirely pink, it has just a shade of copper to it as well. The bouquet exhibits distinct aromas of strawberry and watermelon rind, as well as subtle hints of macerated cranberry and lemon zest. On the palate the entry is purely ripe strawberry, then moving into the mid palate and finish you are presented with crisp acidity, as well as nuances of tart cherry, ripe raspberry and the faintest expression of crushed granite, leading into a surprisingly long finish. PP Score: 91+ (Retail $13-16)

Valle dell’Acate Frappato Vittoria, Sicily, IT – Valle dell’Acate is one of most storied estates in Sicily, having been established by the Jocono family in the 19th century. They have 110 hectares of land, half of which is devoted to vineyard, the other half is a world class blood orange orchard… Probably not surprising that a number of their wines have subtle orange notes! Their Frappato is simply stunning. James Suckling did a fair job describing the wine in his 90 point review, so I’ll pass the mic to him… “Really delicious with sliced strawberries and sour cherries on the nose and palate. Medium body, with fresh acidity and a clean finish. Tangy and delicately fruity.” Well said James, thought personally I feel 90 to be a little conservative. PP Score: 92 (Retail $17-20)

Crios Torrontes, Argentina – Crios is the third tier of the Susana Balbo empire known as Dominio del Plata, originally created as a collaboration with her two children Ana and Jose, as a way for Susana to teach her children the family business. This is why the wine’s label is a drawing of a big hand encompassing two small hands. The project was so successful, and her children such quick studies, that they now manage the Crios label (under Susana’s guidance of course). As with all Torrontes, the nose is quite floral, with hints of crushed white flower, honeysuckle and peach. You would expect the palate to reflect the bouquet, but instead you find a surprisingly dense wine with subtle notes of pear, peach and fennel frond framed with mild salinity, refreshing acidity and moderate minerality. This is a much more serious wine than is typical for Torrontes. PP Score: 90 (Retail $11-14)

So there you have it, my recipe and my wine pairings. I hope you give it all a shot, give me a shout if you do. More new content will be going up shortly. In the meantime, crack open a bottle of Vin Gris, Torrontes or Frappato, sit back, and relax. Life is short, enjoy it!


Published by Derek Martin

Husband, dad, home cook, wine snob... lover of bacon. I have spent my entire adult life surrounded by fine food and fine wines, starting with fifteen years working at, or running, some of New Jersey's top restaurants, and now the last two years working for one of the top fine wine distributors in the United States. I have absorbed a ton of information on food, wine, pairings and techniques during those seventeen years, and I'd love to share what I've learned with you!

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