The Ordinary’s Vandy Vanderwarker dishes up a Lowcountry-inspired starter of crunchy deviled crab croquettes
DEVILED CRAB FRITTERS
(Makes 3 Dozen)
1 cup uncooked Carolina Gold rice
3 cups shellfish stock (recipe below)
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
1 tsp. butter
Coarse kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup each celery, onion, and fennel, diced small
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 lb. fresh, unpasteurized, lump crab meat, thoroughly picked over for shells
1 cup deviled mayonnaise (recipe below)
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 qts. canola oil, for frying
Old Bay, for seasoning
Place rice in a colander and set inside a pot. Cover with water, soak for an hour, then drain.
When the rice is almost finished soaking, bring stock to a boil in a medium saucepan and reduce by half. Add one bay leaf, thyme, and butter and season with salt. Stir in the rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, stir, then cover and cook for 12 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and set aside, covered, for five minutes. Remove bay leaf, fluff the rice, and cover again to keep warm.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, fennel, garlic, and the remaining bay leaf. Reduce the heat to low, then gently sweat the mixture until all the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, remove the bay leaf, and season the vegetables with salt to taste.
In a large bowl, gently combine the vegetables, rice, crab, and one cup of the mayonnaise. Form the mixture into one-inch balls, then place them on a parchment-lined sheet pan and cover the pan with freezer-proof plastic wrap or foil. Transfer the pan to the freezer for at least eight hours.
When ready to cook, set up a dredging station with three bowls: one filled with flour, one with beaten eggs, and one with panko. Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with paper towels.
Dredge each fritter lightly to coat in flour, eggs, then panko. Place gently in oil and fry until golden brown, about five minutes. Using a slotted spoon, move the fritters to the paper towel-lined pan to drain. Season as desired. Serve with deviled mayonnaise on the side.
For the deviled mayonnaise:
(Yields 2 cups)
2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Coleman’s English dry mustard
1 tablespoon Old Bay, plus more for seasoning
Coarse kosher salt, to taste
Mix all ingredients together. If not using immediately, place into a tightly-sealed container and store in the refrigerator for two to three days.
For the shellfish stock:
(Makes approx. 4 quarts)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
3 stalks celery, cut in 1-inch dice
1 onion, cut into 1-inch dice
1 leek, trimmed and cut into 1-inch dice
1 head garlic, halved
3 pounds shells from shrimp, crab, or lobster
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup Cognac
1/2 oz. thyme
3 fresh bay leaves
1/4 oz. tarragon
About 2 gallons water, to cover
Heat canola oil in a stockpot or large Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté carrots, celery, onion, leek, and garlic until soft but without browning, about five to eight minutes. Add shells and cook for a few minutes until lightly toasted and aromatic. Add tomato paste, stirring to incorporate, then add Cognac to deglaze the pan. Add the herbs and enough water to cover by a few inches, then simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Strain stock through a fine mesh sieve into another large pot and continue to simmer until liquid has reduced by half.
■ Shape up: “In order to maintain their roundness, we freeze the fritters before frying them,” Vanderwarker says. And great news, they keep well in the freezer—for up to one month in a freezer-proof container—making them the perfect prep-ahead party bites.
■ Good pickin’s: Removing crab shell bits can be tedious, but you can speed up the process by spreading the meat out on a baking sheet and placing it under the broiler for just a minute—this will turn the shell bits red, making them easier to see.
Meet the Chef: Vandy Vanderwarker (inset photo above)
Shucker, poissonnier, saucier, and now The Ordinary’s chef de cuisine, Carlton “Vandy” Vanderwarker III has held many titles during his 14 years in the industry. His culinary journey began at just five years old, when Vanderwarker helped his mother prepare meals in their Charlottesville, Virginia, kitchen. The young cook went on to graduate from culinary school in 2004; work five years in acclaimed New York City restaurants including Brassiere 8 1/2, Eighty-one, and Tom Colicchio’s Craftbar; and win an episode of Food Network’s Chopped in 2015. Since moving to the Lowcountry in 2009, Vanderwarker, with guidance from the oyster hall’s chef-owner, Mike Lata, has gained Charleston’s nod of approval for the finesse he puts behind each dish—whether it’s a complex seafood tower or a basket of crab fritters—and his knack for turning locally sourced ingredients, like Anson Mills grains and freshly caught crab, into heavenly bites.