Mini Crab Cake Appetizers

Here is a true American classic that just begs to be paired with a top-quality California sparkling wine. Whether you choose blue crab from the Chesapeake Bay or Dungeness crab from the Pacific Northwest, these miniature cakes will melt in your mouth. For the sake of convenience, you can do the prep work a day in advance and pop the baking pans in the oven while your guests are enjoying their first glass of wine.

Preparation time: 1 hour and 15 minutesMini Crab Cakes

8 oz cream cheese, brought to room temperature
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
¼ cup sour cream
1 tsp finely grated orange peel
½ tsp finely grated lemon peel
4 tsp plus 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives, divided
¼ tsp coarse kosher salt
Large pinch of cayenne pepper
6 oz fresh lump crabmeat, picked over, patted dry and coarsely shredded
1 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)*
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
Fresh chives, cut into pieces

Kitchen equipment: Electric mixer, 2 mini muffin pans

Step 1 (can be done a day ahead): Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese in a medium sized bowl until smooth. Add ¼ cup Parmesan and egg; beat to blend. Beat in sour cream, citrus peels, 4 teaspoons chopped chives, coarse salt, and cayenne pepper. Fold in crabmeat. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Step 2: Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 2 mini muffin pans. Toss Panko, ½ cup Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons chopped chives in small bowl. Drizzle ¼ cup melted butter over mixture, tossing with a fork until evenly moistened. Press 1 rounded tablespoon of Panko mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup, forming a crust. Spoon 1 generous tablespoon of crab mixture into each cup. Sprinkle rounded teaspoon of Panko mixture over each (some may be left over).

Bake crab cakes until golden on top and set, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans 5 minutes. Run knife around each cake and gently lift out of pan. Arrange crab cakes on serving platter and sprinkle with chives.

* Available in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets and at Asian markets.

Makes 8 servings (24 appetizer-sized crab cakes)

Suggested wine pairing: etoile Rosé