Coconut Popcorn Shrimp Cakes
It’s Father’s Day and I was eating a leftover Coconut Popcorn Shrimp Cake earlier and thinking that my Dad would certainly enjoy one of them. Dad and Mom love seafood cakes. Well, specifically, crab cakes. It’s usually their “go to” choice at seafood restaurants. But, boy, are they picky! I mean really picky. It’s not just about the quality of the crab meat, whether or not there’s crab shell/cartilage present, and the presence of fillers (and what kind of fillers)—all of which I do “get.” But if they order a crab cake sandwich and it comes on a bun that’s not heated … well, let’s just say they are still talking about a restaurant that went out of business years ago that would serve its crab cake sandwiches on a “cold bun” as my mom would say and then reiterate, “Right out of the package!” That was a criminal act for sure in my mother’s opinion. Crab cake dinners at least remove the potential for that grievous infraction as the crab cakes always come sans bun in a dinner. Shewww … that takes out at least one way to lose points in the crab cake “rating.”
Of course, almost all crab cakes served in restaurants are off limits for those of us who eat gluten free. They usually contain bread crumbs or torn pieces of bread. Some of us have even been told by chefs erroneously that the panko bread crumbs used were gluten free. While there are gluten-free panko bread crumbs available these days, the ones that we were told were gluten free were not. And even if the crab cakes do not contain gluten-full ingredients, they’re almost certainly fried in a deep fryer with other gluten-full ingredients. So I was happy when last year—when entertaining some of my gluten-free blogger friends—I discovered that one of our favorite local restaurants (Sammy T’s in Fredericksburg, VA) not only had a gluten-free menu (not shown on their website), but that gluten-free crab cakes were on it!
I’ve ordered a crab cake there a half dozen times since. I always asked anew my standard “due diligence” questions … i.e.; what the crab cakes contain and how they’re prepared. The answers satisfy (they use gluten-free cornmeal vs gluten-full bread crumbs, their crab cakes are baked vs fried, etc.) and so do the crab cakes! I’d probably give them an 8 on a scale of 10, but for a crab cake not made at home, I think that’s a pretty good rating.
This year when my gluten-free girlfriends visited and we also ended up in downtown Fredericksburg one day, we found ourselves a bit famished after our excellent horse and carriage tour (Olde Towne Carriages). So we ate a midday meal at Sammy T’s. All found suitable options—even gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian ones—and one friend (Kim of Cook IT Allergy Free) and I enjoyed the crab cake with nice fresh side salads. And by the way, she agreed with my assessment. Her review: “It’s good.”
Crab cakes don’t often get made at my house. We eat steamed crabs all the time, and almost never tire of “picking” crabs, but picking them out and saving the meat for later is something that we very rarely do.
Shrimp’s another matter though. I do get a tad bored sometimes with eating leftover steamed shrimp and, therefore, I like re-purposing it, so I often peel our leftover shrimp and use it in shrimp salad (that makes for truly wonderful Party Puffs, even if it’s just Mr. GFE and me partying!), Seafood Chowder, or a shrimp version of my Tetrazzini.
During the same gluten-free girlfriend get together, one evening I cooked 4 pounds of the Oven-Steamed Shrimp for our dinner. Because we had lots of other food to enjoy that evening and two friends are vegetarians, there was quite a bit of shrimp left over. I decided that the solution would be Shrimp Cakes. I peeled the already-deveined shrimp and cut them into ½-inch lengths using my kitchen shears and adding almond flour, grated zucchini, and grated sweet onion, to create the cakes and then I sautéed them in just a little coconut oil.
The taste and texture? So yummy. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought that I was eating a combo of coconut shrimp and popcorn shrimp from back in the day. The form? Not so good. I posted the photo on Facebook and nobody seemed particularly upset that my Shrimp Cakes mostly didn’t come out as cakes. Gluten-Free Hangout commented: “Many of my recipes turn out “form”less, but with amazing taste, too. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Your shrimp cakes look good to me!” (Thanks!) Twyla said: “Oh, that looks horrible. I’ll be right over to take it off your hands. It’s the least I can do. Civic duty and all.” (What a trouper Twyla is!) Deanna (The Mommy Bowl) said: “I can totally get down with “tastes great, looks crappy.” Hehe. I loved everyone’s comments, but it was Kim’s (Cook IT Allergy Free) that inspired the alternative recipe title: “They look divine to me… 🙂 Shrimp Cake Crumbles…”
See both the Shrimp Cakes and the Shrimp Crumbles (Not Pretty, But Oh So Good!)
Seeking shrimp cake success, I made the recipe again two more times, once with eggs and once without, and with finely chopped or semi-pulverized ingredients. My results varied depending upon how much I processed the ingredients. I’d either end up with perfectly-formed cakes or more crumbles. Adding an egg or omitting the egg, was not the deciding factor for the “form” in this recipe. And eggless or egg full, these cakes/crumbles taste great. I came to the conclusion that I far prefer the crumbles though—with the shrimp and other ingredients not finely processed—as there’s more “coverage” with the almond flour and coconut oil, giving more of that coconut shrimp/popcorn shrimp flavor and texture.
Yes, Dad would love these Coconut Popcorn Shrimp Cakes or Crumbles. Now, Mom, she’s a much harder sell! And while I serve these without a bun (which admittedly I would probably not heat up), I’m glad that it’s Father’s Day and not Mother’s Day! But now that I’ve told you all that, the truth is we picked up some steamed crabs and invited mom and dad over to enjoy them together. We love the social aspect of picking steamed crabs (it’s a wonderful way to catch up with all that’s been going on in our respective lives!) and we all truly had a grand time, but I’ll make some Coconut Popcorn Shrimp Cakes or Crumbles for Dad the next time I have an abundance of leftover steamed shrimp.
Coconut Popcorn Shrimp Cakes
- 1 1/ 2 cups cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp, processed for cakes or chopped small by hand for crumbles
- 1 cup zucchini, processed well or finely chopped by hand
- ½ cup sweet onion, processed well or finely chopped
- 1 large or jumbo egg, optional
- 1 cup almond flour (I use Honeyville blanched almond flour)
- 1/2 to 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning (optional, only use if your cooked shrimp have not been seasoned)
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp coconut oil and 2 tbsp coconut oil (divided, 1 tsp is used in eggless version)
- Add about 2 tbsp coconut oil to skillet and heat to medium to medium-high.
- Mix all ingredients, adding 1 tsp coconut oil if omitting the egg.
- Form into cakes and carefully place in hot oil or drop by large spoonfuls into hot oil for crumble version.
- Cook about three minutes or so on each side until golden brown.
- Makes about five average-sized shrimp cakes or many crumbles.
Using a food processor/mini-chopper for several seconds to process ingredients smaller will allow you to have perfectly formed shrimp cakes. For crumbles, hand chop ingredients or use food processor/mini chopper for a very brief time, before mixing ingredients together. For eggless shrimp cakes, processing the ingredients more will allow better binding. With eggless shrimp cakes, making smaller cakes and handling them more gently will yield better results.