August 29, 2014 at 1:00 am

Simply the Best

Shrimp cakes won't make budget crabby

Almonds add the perfect crunchy crust to tender shrimp cakes. (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)

My idea of fast food is to keep a bag of shrimp in the freezer. Knowing that it’s there inspires me to do all sorts of dishes from stir-fry to a topping for pasta or even soup. My latest dish is shrimp cakes. I love crab cakes, but the price of crab causes me to cringe and my wallet shrink. So instead I make shrimp cakes, blending the ingredients, including bacon, which you can easily omit for the non-red-meat-eater at the table, in the processor. Then I coat the cakes with sliced almonds, saute and serve with a soy sauce and lemon mayo.

The flavor is refreshing, the preparation is easy and I have money to buy a new pair of shoes. These would also make a really nice appetizer or first course served with a salad.

I prefer to buy my shrimp at Whole Foods, where the shrimp is responsibly farmed and no chemical washes or preservatives are added. The 41-50 count with shell on is the perfect size. I can usually get two or sometimes three meals out of a 1-pound bag — that’s for the two of us. But still, a 1-pound bag of shrimp to feed four is a bargain in my book.

Your family will think you’ve fussed; keep that a secret.

Author’s note: I should know better, but I used the wrong pedal when referring to Jack’s bike ride last week. Thanks to the anonymous reader who caught my error and let me know. It should have read “pedaled” not “peddled.” Apologies.

For lemon soy mayonnaise

¾ cup mayonnaise
1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste

For shrimp cakes

1 bacon slice, chopped
¾ pound large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined
1 slice firm white sandwich bread
¼ cup milk
½ cup chopped scallions (about 4)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups sliced almonds (6 ounces)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Garnish

Lemon wedges and fresh cilantro leaves

Make lemon soy mayonnaise: Stir together all mayonnaise ingredients in a small bowl. Chill until ready to serve.

Make shrimp cakes: Pulse chopped bacon in food processor until finely chopped. Pat shrimp dry, then add to bacon and pulse just until shrimp is coarsely chopped (do not puree). Soak bread in milk in a shallow bowl until very soft, about 30 seconds. Add wet bread to shrimp mixture, discarding any remaining milk, and pulse until just combined.

Transfer shrimp mixture to a bowl, then stir in scallions, cilantro, cornstarch, salt, sugar and pepper until combined well.

Spread almonds on a large plate. Using a ¼-cup measure, drop 1 mound of shrimp mixture onto almonds. Sprinkle almonds over shrimp mound to coat, gently pressing to form a (3 ½-inch) cake (13 inch thick). Transfer cake to a wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Make 7 more cakes in same manner, transferring to baking sheet. Discard any remaining almonds.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook 4 cakes, turning over once and rotating for even browning, until almonds are golden and cakes are just cooked through, 4-6 minutes total. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and keep warm, loosely covered with foil. Discard any almonds left in skillet, then add remaining tablespoon oil and cook remaining 4 cakes in same manner. Serve warm, with lemon soy mayonnaise. Serves 4.

Per serving (with lemon soy mayonnaise): 755 calories; 66 g fat (8 g saturated fat; 79 percent calories from fat); 17 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 151 mg cholesterol; 1,015 mg sodium; 25 g protein; 6 g fiber.

KLawson@detroitnews.com