Recipe Sleuth: Clyde’s Crab Tower

Clyde’s crab tower. Photograph courtesy of Clyde’s.

When chef Jeff Eng first arrived at Clyde’s of Georgetown—after having trained at sister restaurant 1789 under Ris Lacoste—he wanted to showcase a crab appetizer that wasn’t a Maryland-style crabcake. After experimenting with then-sous chef Hoss Fuentes, the duo unveiled what Eng calls a “sushi monster”: an upright sculpting of golden-fried rice cake, sesame seaweed, crab salad, bright-orange tobiko, sliced avocado—and to top it off, a crispy wonton chip. The plate is punched up with a citrus-miso vinaigrette and a few droplets of hot Sriracha sauce. A smaller version is served at the bar at Rockville’s Tower Oaks Lodge, where Eng is now head chef. But diners can still find the original appetizer on the Georgetown menu.

The recipe, which one reader requested, requires a bit of time and effort. “Leave yourself plenty of time,” Eng says. “The process is long and tedious and will likely take some experimenting to perfect.”
First order of business: Find a good Asian market to track down some of the lesser-seen items: wasabi powder, sweet-chili sauce, sushi rice, green-curry paste, tobiko, goma wakame, and miso paste.

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Clyde’s Crab Tower

Makes 8 servings.

Make the crab salad:

1 pound jumbo-lump crabmeat
1 pound lump or backfin crabmeat
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon wasabi powder
2 tablespoons sweet-chili sauce
½ cup chopped chives
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 teaspoon salt

Pick any cartilage or shell fragments from the crabmeat.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except the crab. Carefully fold in the crabmeat, taking care not to break up the lumps. Set aside.

Make the coconut-curry rice cake:

2 cups short-grain sushi rice
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
3 cups water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon green-curry paste
1 cup toasted, shredded coconut

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer. Stir the rice occasionally with a rubber spatula to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Continue to simmer 25 to 30 minutes until the rice is fully cooked. On a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, spread the rice evenly, about 1 inch thick. Let fully cool in the refrigerator.

Make the citrus-miso vinaigrette:

1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 oranges, zested and juiced
½ grapefruit, zested and juiced
3 shallots
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
1 cup white-miso paste
¼ cup honey
1 cup Canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Salt to taste

Add all the ingredients—except the Canola and sesame oils—to a blender. While the blender is running at medium-high speed, slowly drizzle in the oils so the dressing emulsifies. Strain the dressing through a fine-mesh sieve and season with salt, if necessary. Set aside.

Make the wonton chips:

8 wonton skins
Canola oil to taste
Wasabi powder to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Cut the wonton skins diagonally. Mix the Canola oil and wasabi powder and season to taste with salt and pepper. Brush the skins with the mixture. Lay the wontons on a sheet pan and bake until crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

Assemble the crab tower:

Canola oil for frying
Goma wakame (sesame-seaweed salad)
Tobiko (flying-fish roe)
¼ sliced avocado, for garnish
Sriracha hot sauce as needed, for garnish

Pour enough Canola oil into a deep pot so that the 1-inch-thick rice cakes will be covered. Heat the oil to 350 degrees.

Cut 8 4-by-4-inch pieces of parchment paper. On top of each paper, layer a ring mold with ¼-inch sesame-seaweed salad, a thicker layer of jumbo-lump crab salad (packed tightly), and a thin layer of flying-fish roe. Chill, preferably overnight so they’ll unmold easily.

From the tray of chilled sushi rice, use a ring mold to punch out 8 rice cakes. Deep-fry the rice cakes in the hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes—the outside should be crispy and the center soft and sticky. Set on paper towels to drain.

To serve the towers, spoon a small amount of the citrus-miso vinaigrette in the center of 8 plates, then place a fried rice cake on top. Carefully remove the ring molds from the crab-and-seaweed patties (tilt them, remove the parchment, and slide the ring mold up while gently pushing the contents down with a spoon). Set on top of each rice cake. Top each crab tower with fanned slices of avocado. Gently insert a wonton chip into the avocado so it sticks straight up. For garnish, add a few drops of Sriracha hot sauce around the plate.

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