Cornbread 082The third and final recipe in our wok-cooking trilogy comes from a paperback titled The Classic 1000 Chinese Recipes.  Though it certainly delivers on the quantity, we found ourselves frustrated as we read through recipes in the hopes of finding one we wanted to make for the June Cookbook Challenge.  The reason: this cookbook is long on recipes, but short on directions.

Because we still had half of the crab on hand that we had purchased for the spicy pork meatballs, we decided to see what Classic 1000 had that used crab.  As luck would have it, there were plenty of choices.  We opted for a Chinese take on that Chesapeake favorite, the crab cake, eager to see how it would differ from local favorites (like the ones at Chris’s Marketplace).

Right away, the ingredient list suggested that we were heading into very different territory.  Even though these things were described as crab cakes, there were four ingredients listed before crab.  More disturbing?  The recipe called for as many bean sprouts (8 ounces’ worth) as crab.  This would be an adventure.

Chinese Crab CakesWe heated two tablespoons peanut oil in a wok and then stir-fried eight ounces of bean sprouts, four ounces of bamboo shoots (we used canned shoots from Harris Teeter), and one chopped onion until they had softened.  Once everything was soft we pulled it from the wok and mixed it with eight ounces of crab meat, four lightly beaten eggs, one tablespoon cornstarch, and two tablespoons of soy sauce.

Heating two more tablespoons of peanut oil in a cleaned-out wok, we started cooking handfuls of the mixed ingredients that we had shaped into small cakes.  Each one fried about two to three minutes on a side, after which we would flip it so it could brown on the other side.  We blotted them on a paper towel and then served them hot.

Crab Cakes in WokWere they anything like the crab cakes we enjoy here in DC?  Not really.  Though they weren’t heavy or bready the way a crabcake that’s heavy on filler would be, they still had only a taste of crab that shared the stage with the bamboo shoots (a refreshing taste) and the bean sprouts (earthy).  We didn’t dislike them – we actually kinda liked them, really – but we’d have some serious explaining to do if we tried to serve them to friends as crabcakes.

Sadly, I don’t think the Classic 1000 will have much opportunity to redeem itself.  Too often we’d find ourselves scratching our heads as a recipe failed to include cooking times, temperatures, or other key bits of information.  With the internet at our disposal (usually), there’s no reason to keep this confusing collection on the shelf.

IMG_7720Note to self: when it comes to Sunday brunch near the Kennedy Center, it’s probably best to try to do it ANY OTHER TIME BESIDES George Washington University’s commencement weekend.  Call it a hunch, but it’s likely to be just the slightest bit easier to find a reservation in the area.

Thankfully, we turned to those foodie enablers over at OpenTable, and they were quick to offer a handful of reservations that were available before the matinee performance of Ragtime that we were going to see.  They even had a 1000-point reservation at Hook…and it HAD been a while since we’d been to Georgetown’s temple of sustainability.  Having just written about former Chef Barton Seaver’s newest venture (the soon-to-open Blue Ridge), we decided to check out Hook’s brunch.

IMG_7708When we arrived, we were shown to our usual table in the front window.  Now don’t read too much into this – we seem to have a knack for making reservations at times when that front table is unoccupied, and most places along M Street love to keep their window tables filled to draw in the foot traffic.  Within minutes our waiter arrived, asked if we were all right with filtered water (a subtle way to guide diners toward the most environmentally friendly option), and took our drink orders.

A make-your-own-champagne-cocktail bar was tempting in its array of accompanying juices and liquors, but the need to buy a full bottle of sparkling wine made that option a non-starter for us.  For me, there are few brunch joys greater than a good, spicy Bloody Mary.  Hook’s signature version of the classic drink immediately distinguished itself with its garnishes: house-cured bacon and a cocktail shrimp replaced celery and turned it into something approaching an appetizer.  Elizabeth’s choice, the Pear Ginger Lemonade, was a light and refreshing way to start the meal…and probably a better complement to the seafood we’d be enjoying than a tempting Nutella Hot Chocolate.

Of course, before we could even think about our fish, there was the issue of Heather Chittum’s baked goods to consider… (more…)

blog-for-the-bayIn honor of Earth Day, local bloggers FoodieTots and Arugula Files have organized something they’re calling “Blog for the Bay.”  It’s an effort to support clean water in the Chesapeake and to urge the EPA to move forward on Bay clean-up efforts.  They’re also encouraging anyone who’s interested to sign the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s petition.

As part of the project, we here at Capital Spice are happy to share one of our favorite things about the Chesapeake: Chris’ Marketplace and their delicious crabcakes!

If you’ve ever walked through the Dupont Circle or the Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market, chances are you’ve been drawn to Chris Hoge’s stand.  It’s a simple setup – just a few tables and coolers with a pair of butane stoves and a dry-erase board – but it’s been known to draw lines of people queued up to enjoy some of Chris’ delicious seafood specialties.  Chief among them are his jumbo lump crab cakes, made from Chesapeake Bay blue crabs.

It should come as no surprise that Hoge knows what he’s doing: he captained a commercial fishing boat for a time before settling into his current role as a vendor of “value added seafood products.”  With his connections to top-quality wholesalers and his knack for bringing out the natural flavors of his raw materials, his crabcakes (not to mention his shrimp refresco and his empanadas) put the competition to shame.

Details on where and when to find Chris – and what makes his crabcakes and other seafood dishes so damn addictive – after the jump. (more…)