Thursday’s Dish: Chef Jeff’s Crab Cakes

At our LiveMom retreat this past weekend at Lakeway Resort & Spa, we were treated to a chef’s tasting menu representing the talents of the new executive chef, Jeff Axline. The menu was a wonderful mix of Texas flavors and gourmet style: down home meets upscale. Axline, or Chef Jeff as we like to call him, came to Austin two months ago from Olivette at The Houstonian, where he had been executive sous chef. Since then, he’s been working on injecting his style into Josey’s Grill & Bar, the main dining area at Lakeway Resort & Spa, and launched his new menu on Tuesday. Here’s what was on our tasting menu:

Sounds good, right? It certainly was, and Chef Jeff was kind enough to share his recipe for our favorite dish, the crab cake. Here’s what some of my fellow tasters said about them:

Nicole: “I really liked the crab cake … having spent time on the East Coast, I LOVE crab cakes and usually don’t even try to order them here in Texas. They are usually so bready and rich and you can’t even tell it’s crab! But this was so light and delicate, and as Chef Jeff said, only had enough extra ingredients to keep the crab cake together.”

Jennifer: “My favorite for the night was the crab cake. The cake was so delicate–I recall Chef Jeff noting that when they prepared it, they had to be very careful when turning it, or it would fall apart. When I took my first bite, I did that ‘you just took a bite of very good food’ groan. I did not want the crab cake to end! The taste was a perfect combination of crab and other flavors that my unsophisticated palate is not savvy enough to list, but it was amazing.”

Christy: “The crab cake was cooked perfectly, the breading was not overwhelming (as it can sometimes be), and I LOVED that crab was the star of the cake rather than a bunch of fillers. I would have enjoyed a couple of crab cakes as an entree.”

Katie: “My favorite was the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake. I LOVE crab cakes. They are a serious weakness of mine. The problem is that it can be difficult to find good crab cakes. Most places you go offer small cakes that are mostly fried breading. Chef Jeff’s crab cakes were mostly crab with very little breading. Plus, it was very lightly fried so you really tasted the crab. … These may have ruined me for all other crab cakes.”

High praise, indeed! The bacon jam (so good you want to take shots of it), filet mignon, winter vegetables (beets! Brussels sprouts!) and blue cheese potato salad all took close runners-up status, but the crab cake won the day.

Chef Jeff, who went to culinary school at the Art Institute of Seattle, told me that about 50% of his diners on any given night are not hotel guests. That’s already a pretty good number, but he’s hoping to increase it, making Josey’s Grill & Bar a destination restaurant for Austinites. Over time, he hopes to pull in more locally sourced and organic foods, and will address vegetarian needs. For now, he’s happy to accommodate any special menu needs with advanced notice. He’s preparing a sumptuous Valentine’s dinner, which along with the beautiful lake view from the restaurant, would make for a romantic evening with your sweetheart. And guess what’s first on the menu? Yep, the crab cake!

Chef Jeff’s Jumbo Lump Crab Cake and Jalapeño Tartar Sauce

Crab Cake
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat (cleaned and checked for shells)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 egg
1 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1/2 Tablespoon chopped chivesAdvertisement
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive oil

Beat the egg and add mayonnaise, add chives, parsley, lemon juice and Old Bay. Mix well. Fold in the crab meat carefully as not to break up the jumbo lump pieces. Add enough panko so that a ball can be formed easily (you want it to be solid but not too solid like a meatball) form into six equal cakes and cover with remaining panko. Place in refrigerator for about and hour so the mixture will be easier to sauté. In a large sauté pan, add olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the crab cakes and cook till brown on each side. Pat the excess oil off and serve with the jalapeño tartar sauce as a nice appetizer or a main course.

Jalapeño Tartar Sauce
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
4 Tablespoons chopped dill pickles (drained of excess juice)
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh jalapeños
3 Tablespoons chopped red onion
1 Tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 Tablespoon chopped chives
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to let flavors develop. Serve with crab cakes.

Here’s a photo of Chef Jeff with six very sated ladies! From left: Jennifer Ford, Katie Mastovich, Catherine Prystup, Chef Jeff Axline, Shannon Oelrich, Christy Moffett, Nicole Basham

Written by: Shannon Oelrich