Makes about 20 appetizer or 30 cocktile crab cakes
1 pound Dungness crabmeat, picked over
¼ white onion, minced
1 celery stalk, finely minced
¼ medium red bell pepper, minced
¼ cup packed cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons pureed chipotle chiles
1 to 1 ½ cups homemade bread crumbs, dried out
Panko bread crumbs (available in Asian markets)
Oil, for shallow frying
Tamarind Sauce (recipe follows)
1. In a bowl, combine the crab, onion, celery, bell pepper, cilantro, lemon juice, and salt.
2. Place the mixture in a colander or sieve set inside a bowl. Set a plate on the crab, the weight with a can, cover, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours to drain.
3. Transfer the crab to a bowl and stir in the mayonnaise, eggs, and chipotles. Add ¾ cup of the bread crumbs and toss to combine. The mixture should look moist (not gummy) and should stick together without crumbling. You may need to add more bread crumbs, little by little to achieve the desired texture.
4. Spread a generous layer of panko on a plate. Scoop out balls of the crabn mixture, using ¼ cup for appetizers of 1 ½ tablespoons for cocktail servings. Drop the balls into the panko. Shake off excess crumbs. (The crab cakes may be made to this point and refrigerated.)
5. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add enough oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan 1/8 inch deep (about ¼ cup). Cook the crab cakes until crip and golden brown on both sides and firm. Drain and keep warm. Serve with a little tamarind sauce on the plate and some diced avocado.