gluten-free crabcakes for my love

hello, love

This morning, I watched this man bend down to grab the hands of our daughter and slowly go around in a circle with her while they sang Ring Around the Rosie together.

(There’s no need to tell her yet how creepy that song really is.)

Right now, he is taking her on their morning date: the playground to go down the slide together, the exercise studio of our friend Amy so they can ride the bikes together, the grocery store so they can have cheese and buy food together, the playspace where they can do somersaults and read books together. These two are buddies. The late morning is theirs. I stay home and work for a couple of hours, and Lu gets her daddy to herself.

Every evening, when we eat dinner, she chooses the books we’ll read that time. Every evening, she stretches her fingers toward Daddy’s Girl by Garrison Keillor. “Dada!” I turn the pages, and we read about the daddy who feeds his daughter apricot yogurt, lamb souvlaki, Belgian waffles, and bananas, and Lu nods her head, smiling. “Dada!” she shouts at the last drawing, a little girl in a party dress with her head on the shoulder of her dark-haired father. “Dada?” she says, a bit sad. We have to talk, again, about the fact that Daddy is at work. She misses him.

He misses her.

I loved this man pretty much from the moment I met him. (I smacked him on the arm and teased him immediately. That’s a big part of who we are together.) However, the love I feel for him has grown in ways that I can never explain whenever I watch him hold our sleeping daughter against his shoulder and tuck her into bed. His love for her is enormous. So is mine. We love each other more because she is in the world.

Yesterday, we had Lu’s birthday party in the backyard. Nearly 20 children, most of them under 4, shouting and laughing, jumping and skipping, splashing and roaring with excitement about balls and cars and hide and go seek. There was a beautiful bedlam in the plastic pool. Our friends gathered on the front porch to sing Happy Birthday to Lu, who was amazed by it all. We ate carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, a recipe from our cookbook, coming out two months from now. We were surrounded by friends and happy people. It was the perfect summer day.

A little later, I gathered everyone in the backyard and asked them to face Danny. He sat near the tomato and rhubarb plants, on the grass, a little abashed. “Okay, on the count of three!” Then we belted Happy Birthday, in voices straining to hit the high notes, the sounds bouncing off the sky. Danny was a little mortified to be such the center of attention. I know him, though. I saw the way his eyes scrunched up behind his sunglasses. He was crying, to have all these friends around him, singing with happiness about him being here.

I don’t think he ever expected this.

You see, before Danny and I met, he was pretty damned lonely. He had his family, who adore him and all live in different states. He had a few friends in the city, but he was always too busy at the restaurant to reach out much. Restaurant work is hard work, all-consuming work. His connections came through the other cooks and servers, wherever he worked. When he was at Cassis, he had a great group. When he was at Impromptu, where he was executive chef when I met him, he was mostly alone in the kitchen. Thank goodness for Hortensia, the dishwasher. Shy by nature, Danny had spent almost all his life on the line, making food, instead of talking with other people.

When he lived in New York, and worked at Gramercy Tavern, Danny lived on the edge of Harlem, in a broken-down apartment that was still too expensive for his paycheck. He loved that restaurant, being in the kitchen, the camaraderie on the line. However, when he left work for the night, he climbed on the subway alone. After growing up in a small mountain town, surrounded by family and friends, he felt unnerved in the city. When he wasn’t working, he was alone.

I was only 12 blocks from him, on the same subway line. We must have passed each other on the street. We never met. Whenever he tells me about his time in New York, and I feel the aching loneliness I know he felt, I wish that I could have walked to his apartment building, walked up the steps, and knocked on his door.

We’re here.

How different his life is now. If I have been given joy these past few years — and oh, have I been given joy — so much of it comes from watching this man I love grow into himself, be confident, have friends, and feel loved on this earth.

His happiness is more important to me than mine. I love making him laugh, watching him throw his head back. I love watching him tear up when his niece and her husband stay with us, and he is amazed by her being 25 and married, then looks at his daughter, who looks so much like her cousin, and knows that Lu will be there soon. I love feeding him.

He and Lu are back now, and it’s time to make lunch. (He’s teaching her to say Ciao! as they come up the steps.) I could write for hours about him and still not be done.

Instead, I’ll stop here and say: Happy Birthday, my love. Thank you for being my hot coffee and cherry pie. You are the best. I adore you.

crab cakes

Danny’s Birthday Crab Cakes

Danny loves food — all food, with a few exceptions. However, ask him his favorites and he’ll answer immediately: crab, avocado, and artichokes.

And so, every year, we cook a birthday meal that showcases these three. Since they are three of my favorite foods, and now Lu’s, this is an easy task. This year? Crab cakes.

We have a recipe for crab cakes in the cookbook, a decadent version with shrimp mousse. Since today is a work day for all of us, we made the quicker version for today’s lunch. (And if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice there are no artichokes in this one. We forgot to pick it up at the store today! If you want to make these crab-artichoke cakes, replace the carrot and corn with artichokes and you’re set.) We all like crab cakes that are a little loose, because we love the taste of crab. Sometimes, binders can mask that beautiful flavor.

Danny, Lu and I enjoyed these in the garden before he rushed off to work. We always want more time with him. However, the few moments we had to eat together were sweet and enough.

16 ounces fresh crabmeat (we like Dungeness)
3/4 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
1/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade is great, but the stuff in a jar works too)
1/2 large ear corn, kernels shaved off
1/2 large carrot, peeled and fine-diced
2 tablespoon fine-chopped fresh dill
1 heaping teaspoon fine-chopped shallots
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
dash Tabasco sauce
1 egg (optional)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Go through the crabmeat carefully, picking out stray shells and cartilage.

Combine 1/4 cup of the breadcrumbs and the mayonnaise together. Add this combination to the crab meat.

Add the remaining ingredients, up to the salt and pepper. Stir well (or use your hands). If the mixture doesn’t feel bound enough to you, add the egg and combine.

Season with salt and pepper. Taste. Season again according to your taste.

Make 2-ounce balls of the mixture, then pat each into a thick cake. Coat with the remaining breadcrumbs, on both sides.

Bring a large skillet to high heat. Add the oil. Put the crab cakes into the hot oil (you might have to do these in two batches). When the bottom has browned, about 3 minutes, flip the crab cakes and put the skillet in the oven.

Cook in the oven until the crabcakes are firm and browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Makes 8 crab cakes.

45 comments on “gluten-free crabcakes for my love

  1. sweetpea

    We have more and more in common, that Danny and I! I knew he was a keeper from the get-go. Happy birthday all around. Now starting the count down for the book release!

  2. Allison the Meep

    What a sweet post. And Happy Birthday, Danny.

    I'm slightly dumb, because when I first saw the title of this, I read it as "gluten-free crackbabies for my love" – WHAT?

  3. magpie bessie

    a beautiful and moving post…thank you for sharing that bright bit of loveliness…

  4. gfe--gluten free easily

    Another post that warms my heart, Shauna. Happy birthday to Danny!

    Can't wait to see you both at IFBC and have Danny overseeing the gf food and cooking for us. Thanks for being willing to share him with some more of his fans. 😉

    And, I'm so with him on his favorites list!

    Many happy hugs,

  5. Nina

    Happy Birthday Danny and Booth! Two great men… we are so lucky, Shauna.

    I'm taking Booth for sushi tonight at the brand new Sushi Kappo Tamura on Eastlake. Owner Taichi always has wheat-free Tamari. (at his old places, Chiso and Kappo.)

    Give Danny a big hug and kiss from me.
    (Nina who can't sign in the old way anymore… don't know what the deal is…)

  6. Dr. Jean Layton-GFDoctor

    Happy Birthday Danny, you are truly blessed.
    The loneliness of restaurant work is one of those nuances of life that you just don't expect.
    After all, these are the folks creating the party! But I never met a chef who was surprised by other people for their special days till they found their soul mate.
    Congrats to both of you.

  7. Jennywenny

    Aw, you are so sweet and romantic, I hope Danny enjoys his birthday crabcakes! You got me with a lump in my throat again!

  8. Dawn

    Oh yum! I wonder how any leftovers will freeze up. I'd love to make these to keep around for packing my lunch (I'm a teacher). I'm always looking for variety during the month.

  9. Christa

    Happy Birthday Danny! May your wish come true as you blow out the candles on your cake… crabcakes! lol

  10. N

    Happy belated birthday Danny! May your deepest wishes (including Shauna putting a damp towel under the cutting board) be realized.

  11. Everton Terrace

    I think to be loved AND to love that way is one of the greatest blessings in life. A joyful heart indeed. Happy birthday wishes to your family.

  12. Miss Welcome

    I love it. Such a beautiful story. I just eat up love stories (and happily have my own too going on ten years).

  13. Melissa

    What a great post! We have an uncle that runs a restaurant and it is grueling and time-consuming and I think too…lonely. Your words made me think of him and wonder if we can do something on his birthday…thanks Shauna!
    Crab cakes YUM! Happy Birthday Danny and Lu!

  14. EponaRae

    Happy Birthday Danny! Your three are three of MY favorite foods too! I have been planning to make crab rolls this week, but I will try this cake recipe before the summer is out.

  15. Sunchowder

    What a beautiful, beautiful post. I am so touched by you, your love and your sweet, sweet family.

  16. Lorraine

    What a lovely life you have found! You are grateful… no doubt! It's when we forget our blessings… that is the true tragedy and too quick to happen. Enjoy your little girl and hubby.. it can be so fleeting~

  17. Robyn

    All I can say is this: thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I am a seventeen-year-old Celiac, and I've been following your writings for the past several months after being directed to your blog by a friend. Your posts are always so inspiring–I can honestly say that my day always feels a bit brighter after reading your newest posts. They are absolutely overflowing with the love you feel for life and the people you share it with.

    Happy belated birthday to Danny and Lu! And please always remain your wonderful, positive self. =)


    Thank you Chef for being the reason the rest of us get to enjoy a gluten free crabcake! This is the ONE thing that I have been totally torn about leaving behind when I needed to go GF & am pumped to be adding this to the mix this wknd for lunch/dinner/breakfast/all of the above?!

  19. Marilyn

    Happy birthday, Danny! Shauna, this is the sweetest post I've ever read. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  20. Shakira B.

    Wow this is so sweet that love can be so strong today.

    It truly gives single girls hope.
    And the crabcakes look amazing…wish i could enjoy shellfish with out joint pain.

    Keep the love alive.

    Live a gluten free day!
    Shakira B.

  21. Happy Valley Mom

    I have been Gluten Free for alittle over a year. I found your blog a few weeks ago and have really been enjoying it. My son and I made your granola–a big hit.
    Tonight I made your crab cakes. The whole fmaily loved them!!!
    I thought I would never have a crab cake again!
    Thank you!

  22. Happy Valley Mom

    I have been Gluten Free for alittle over a year. I found your blog a few weeks ago and have really been enjoying it. My son and I made your granola–a big hit.
    Tonight I made your crab cakes. The whole fmaily loved them!!!
    I thought I would never have a crab cake again!
    Thank you!

  23. Happy Valley Mom

    I have been Gluten Free for alittle over a year. I found your blog a few weeks ago and have really been enjoying it. My son and I made your granola–a big hit.
    Tonight I made your crab cakes. The whole fmaily loved them!!!
    I thought I would never have a crab cake again!
    Thank you!

  24. Andrea

    I'm just catching up and it feels like coming home to read your posts! I mostly wanted to say how beautiful the photo of Danny is, looking into the camera; don't know for sure but I bet yout ook that photo; his eyes are so gorgeous and brimming over with feeling for the photographer. Lovely.

    And happy birthday to the adorable Lu, look how big she looks! It goes so fast.

    Great to see you all doing so well.

  25. Merrissa

    Each one of your posts makes me melt. Just to know that a love like yours and Danny's exists makes my heart swell with joy. Food and love go hand in hand in my world, so a blog that combines the two is perfection.

  26. Bernadette

    I dream about the love you describe….it brought me to joyful tears. Happy Belated Birthday to Danny & Lu. Thank you for all the great recipes and posts. I tried to make my own GF crab cakes a few years ago, they were O.K. but I can't wait to try yours.

    Bernadette from ME

  27. Karen

    That is a beautiful tribute to your husband! The post was so lovely, it made me come out of my lurker shell.

    I really enjoy reading your posts — thanks for all the great culinary ideas and info.

  28. Deb

    Wow. So happy to have been searching for gluten free crab cakes today. Made me a little teary, thinking back to when our girls were young. My husband, my love, also the best ever daddy. I can still see him in the hammock, baby clare on his chest, sucking on dad’s pinkie, while he tried to get his binoculars to his eyes, telling her what color the bird was who was singing in the canopy. Now, 20 years later (Clare, our middle girl, will be 2l next month) we strive together to stay happy and have fun although early onset alzheimer’s is taking him away from me.
    That said, food and being outside brings us together and living in Baltimore, I used blue crabs and switched out the tabasco for Old Bay, although my honey will add more tabasco as he does to everything he eats nowadays.

    Thanks for the lovely post and the delicious recipe! Namaste’

  29. sarah

    lovely lovely lovely
    you write so beautifully about your life without sounding smug – i think it’s because you really do appreciate the small and important things that really matter. I come for crabcakes (this time) and I left with ‘chicken soup’!…

  30. Lynn

    Excellent recipe! Delicious.

    I used cooked cod as a substitute for crab (darn allergy). I steamed two cod steaks (about 1 and 3/4 pounds), then after they cooled I flaked the meat and pressed it to drain out extra liquid. This yielded a little over 1 pound of fish (I reserved the extra for another use). I didn’t have GF breadcrumbs so I pulsed some puffed rice in a wand food processor and used this as a substitute for a 1/4 cup of crumbs. I dusted the cakes in GF break flour, which crisped up nicely.

  31. Calista

    I am so excited to try these! I have always liked crab cakes but since I am allergic to wheat I haven’t had them in a long time. I was wondering what food goes good with crab cakes? Do you have any suggestions? Thanks for sharing your great gluten free recipes!

  32. Gina

    We made your delicious crab cakes for Christmas Eve and they were abolutely wonderful! I hope I made them for my family with the same spirit of love with which you made Danny’s. Thanks for another scrumptious recipe and beautiful story to go with it.

  33. Vicki

    I am sorry to inform you that mayo and tobacco are not entirely gluten free. Can’t use either for my daughter because of the vinegar. Loved your story.

    1. shauna

      Vicki, there is nothing wrong with vinegar. That’s an old story that has been disproved. Enjoy the mayo again!

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