Squash, corn and crab fritters

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Returning to places that have made me feeds my creativity - it's part memory, part soul-searching. It could be a weekend trip to Austin, a day excursion into Hill Country towns, like Kerrville or Fredericksburg, or attempting my bi-annual trip to Vienna, Austria.

Ten days ago, I took to the coast of southern Georgia. Sea Island has bookmarked my family summers for 25 years. It's where I went deep sea fishing for the first time - I lasted 20 minutes before puking on the deck and then ended up catching a bonnet head shark and seagull in the marshes over the course of four hours. Over the decades, I've learned to eat and cook Southern and Low Country food in Sea Island, and take every opportunity to work with coastal ingredients that maybe shouldn't be trusted in Central and North Texas.

But there's one stalwart ingredient that holds up even when the Gulf of Mexico is a few hundred miles away, and that's crab.

I've taken a whack at crab cakes before. They're a gluten-free, dairy-free concoction developed for a friend that's missed crab cakes as her food allergies progressed. Here, I explore the simple fritter. 

Very much derived from the French word meaning "to fry," the fritter can be a deep-fried and bready experience. Rather than employ breadcrumbs and heavy starches though, I like to give the fritter body with tons of yellow squash and a touch of all-purpose flour. Eggs and Greek yogurt serve as a binder. Sweet corn - frozen or fresh - balances the brine of crab and also adds a bit of texture. A simple ricotta dip adds creaminess and balance to the bold fritter flavors.

A few things to note: I recommend using crab claw meat, but you could also use lump crabmeat. This choice is for price alone; claw meat is typically cheaper and works just as well mixed into a batter. If you don't like crab, that's okay. Just add one more yellow squash (1 cup) and follow the same directions prescribed below.

This recipe makes 15-20 fritters that can be served as an appetizer, entree or side-dish. This recipe takes about 30-45 minutes from start to finish. 

What you need

Squash, corn and crab fritters

  • 1 lb yellow squash (typically 2 medium squash), grated
  • 1 1/2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup crab claw meat, picked to remove any remaining bones or cartilage
  • 1 tbsp chives, to finish (optional)
  • Flakey sea salt, like Maldon, to finish (optional)

Ricotta dip

  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

How to do it

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. 

Over a colander, grate yellow squash using a cheese grater (use the larger of the two grating sizes). Once grated, add corn to the colander and sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt over the vegetables. Using your hands or a spoon, stir the vegetables to distribute the salt. Leave vegetables for 10 minutes to allow them to shed as much water as possible. 

While the vegetables dehydrate, assemble remaining ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. First, whisk together the eggs with the yogurt. Then, add the cumin, paprika and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Switching to a spatula or spoon, fold crab meat and parsley into the egg mixture. If you're making the ricotta dipping sauce, simply stir together yogurt, ricotta and olive oil in a small bowl, and cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

After the veggies have soaked in salt for 10 minutes, thoroughly dry the squash and corn, removing as much water as possible to ensure a good, crisp pan-fry, either wringing the veggies in a dish towel or patting and wringing in paper towels. After the veggies have been dried, fold them into the egg mixture. 

To cook the fritters, add one tablespoon of olive oil to coat the base of a medium sauté pan and heat the pan on the stove over medium-high heat until hot – when a droplet of water sizzles immediately when flicked into the pan. A tablespoon at a time, create the fritters, leaving about one inch between the fritters for easy flipping, and lower the stove heat to medium. Cook the fritters for 2 minutes on each side, and repeat until all the batter has been used. Transfer cooked fritters to a sheet pan and keep warm in the 200-degree F oven until ready to consume.

Serve fritters while hot alongside the chilled ricotta dipping sauce and topped with finely chopped chives and flaky sea salt. For leftovers, keep in a sealed container for up to two days in the fridge. Fritters can be reheated on the stove top or in the oven (350 degrees for 10 minutes). In addition to being an appetizer or main course, these are great as the base for a brunch benedict and chopped into a salad.