One day, you wake up and you know you have to make a change.
You sit at the same desk. You do the same work. You eat the same sandwich from the same deli. It has all become rote. You’re going through the motions.
It’s important that you acknowledge how OK that is. Even the grandest of journeys have a few lulls. You have to drive through Barstow to get to Vegas. Luke needed to train with Yoda on Dagobah before he could pull off that really cool backflip over the sarlacc in Episode VI. You need these gaps to allow excitement to build, to train for your own super sweet backflip.
Around a month ago, Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz released a cookbook of 15 recipes that embody his culinary lifestyle. Salmon teriyaki, shrimp scampi, something called “me time sauce”, it’s all in there.
This is my Dagobah. 2 Chainz is my guide. And together, we’re going to do the culinary equivalent of a backflip as we Julie & Julia the 2 Chainz Cookbook.
Crab Cakes with Mango Salsa and Me Time Sauce
Some men choose to believe that God spent the seventh day at rest. I choose to believe that He spent it perfecting a red pepper aioli to drizzle over His finest creation – the crab cake.
Crab cakes. Muscular, armored crab in fluffy cake form. Sweet and savory. Undeniably filling yet light on the palette. Since this article is embossed with references to Meryl Streep vehicles and hiphopdx.com comment threads, let’s just say that crab cakes simultaneously evoke the supremacy of Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse and Streep’s delightful romp through “Hope Springs”. Crab cakes man, they’re delicious.
Unfortunately, 2 Chainz does not know how to make crab cakes. This should have become apparent when I saw that his recipe calls for two full tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (gross) and a mayo/mustard/olive oil slash line of 3 tablespoons/1 tablespoon/2 tablespoons (a cardiac triple crown). And half of a lemon of lemon juice? Before you bake? Get the f*ck outta here with that, 2 Chainz. That’s regoddamdiculous.
Listen, I’d never call myself an expert at an art so pure as crab cake preparation, but dammit, I’ve served crab cakes. I knew crab cakes. Crab cakes were friends of mine. 2 Chainz, you’re no crab cake.
But we’ll get to that.
As I mentioned last time, 2 Chainz claims that he put each of his dishes to the test on a tour bus traveling at 70 miles per hour. That gorgeously constructed lie crumbles like an over-saturated shellfish patty with this recipe.
Finding the ingredients for the mango salsa, crab cakes and Me Time Sauce required trips to two separate Brooklyn supermarkets. Does your weed carrier handle the acquisition of fresh scallions, sir? What about mango? If the attendants at Union Market struggle to find these ingredients, then how does Gunplay negotiate such a task? (Big shout out to the woman who huffed and pointed, “They’re here!” at the produce rack when I asked about the scallions. Without your neighborly condescension, this whole endeavor would have been for naught.)
Unlike his salmon teriyaki, the 2 Chainz version of the crab cake requires approximately 45 minutes to an hour of preparation and a number of highly specific ingredients. Once you have assembled your Old Bay, cilantro, fresh mango and red onion, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, mayo (loads of it), mustard, Worcestershire, crab meat, scallions, butter (even more butter) and olive oil, you begin by taking a break to watch SportsCenter for a bit because it’s been a long day and you’ve earned it.
It’s a lot.
Once you’ve grown sick of twerking references that make you feel old and heartfelt interviews with Terrell Suggs, begin preheating your oven to 375F. If, like me, you have a terribly unreliable oven that sometimes leaks gas, this could take as long 30-45 minutes. That’s OK though, because you’re going to spend 20 of those minutes trying to not slice your fingers off while you peel mangoes.
This is where 2 Chainz’ 70 mph on a tour bus line falls apart. Julienning peppers and onions is one thing, hacking away at a tough, round, slippery piece of fruit is another. Had I been in motion, I would have almost certainly lost the use of my left hand to self-inflicted knife wounds, something no amount of Me Time Sauce will remedy.
After you’ve chopped up the mango, throw it in a bowl with some finely chopped red onion, olive oil, salt, pepper and lime juice. Stir that up and throw it in the fridge where it can stay trill.
Even though it’s not in the recipe, I used the surplus preheat time to make 2 Chainz’ Me Time Sauce next, though I failed to execute on some of the more opulent steps the recipe suggests. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s important to improvise. 2 Chainz recommends hitting the mall to spend a few racks on a new outfit, buying a mani/pedi and coming home to catch up on old seasons of “The Wire”. I’ve never gotten a mani/pedi before, and finding the time on a Wednesday night after work would be difficult. That sounds like a Saturday activity, or something for a Treat Yo Self day. The first mani/pedi is an important step in a man’s life and I want it to be special. I want pampering, not some tumble in the backseat of a Chevy Nova. So to speak.
The ingredients for Me Time Sauce are mayo, barbecue sauce, Old Bay and lemon juice. Mix until it’s pink. You really can’t screw it up. It’s delicious. Throw that in the fridge with the mango salsa so that it too can stay trill.
It’s kind of pink. A pinkish hue.
The next step is the most important and why we’re here in the first place – the crab cake. Take all the ingredients and throw them in a bowl. I cut the amount of seasoning he recommends then added a little bit at a time to taste. Except the Worcestershire and lemon. I followed his advice on those and it totally overwhelmed everything else. Also – you can use more scallions than he says. In retrospect I wish I had. I suppose the lesson in all this is that you learn to live with regrets.
[Looks mournfully out a window toward the Brooklyn sunset]
Mix all of the ingredients until they form a crabby paste. If you follow his advice on the amount of oil and lemon juice, it will come out as more of a liquid than a solid. Based on my own experiences, I’d cut the those two ingredients by half, then add in small amounts until you get a comfortable consistency. Bear in mind I’m working with a crummy oven, which no doubt affected the quality of the subsequent bake.
Melt an entire stick of butter in a baking pan. Form six crab cakes and assemble them on the pan, then throw them in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, use the excess butter that’s pooled into a delicious mess at the bottom of the pan to baste each crab cake. Repeat every 10 minutes until they’re golden brown. Stay trill.
ENTERTAINMENT BREAK/establishing ambience
The pairing of Hype Williams’ “Belly” with Salmon Teriyaki was an unmitigated disaster that I’m still coming to terms with. Whatever accompanied the crab cakes was almost guaranteed to be an improvement.
And, my God, it totally was. Here are the first steps, taken directly from the recipe:
Position yourself in a room surrounded by a handful of TVs playing SportsCenter with the sound off
Play “Used To” as you prepare your initial ingredients and preheat oven to 375F
As if there were any other option. I’ve been passively watching highlights set to aggressive hip-hop while preparing food for years. If there were a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for cooking shitty food, watching sports and listening to rap, I would have written it by now. Hell, maybe that’s what this is.
Zen and the Art of Eating Your Feelings to Rap Music
If you haven’t listened to “Used To” (alternate spelling, “Used 2”, NSFW), do yourself a favor and put it on right now. That is a damn good song. The video’s solid too – a nice throwback to Juevenile-era New Orleans bounce. The message isn’t exactly positive or appropriate for situations in which rampant misogyny would be frowned upon (most), but still, incredible.
Here’s the hook, courtesy of rapgenius.com:
I still f*ck ‘em like I used to
I need to put that shit on YouTube
Cause you know we got that dancefloor crazy
Single ladies and come and have my baby
I still f*ck ‘em like I used to
I need to put that shit on YouTube
Cause you know we got that dancefloor crazy
Hey my n**** come and grab your lady
It’s not poetry, but the man deserves kudos for being sex positive. I’m pretty sure YouTube blocks pornographic content, but A-for-effort, 2 Chainz.
Remove the mango salsa from the fridge and plate that shit. Use a slotted spoon so the juices don’t mess with the presentation. You’re serving crab cakes, not Kraft Mac and Cheese. You may not care, but your guests will.
Once the crab cakes turn golden brown, remove those from the pan with the spatula and place them DELICATELY on top of the mango salsa. Admire that for a minute, because it looks like heaven. Snap a photo and upload it to Instagram (don’t, that’s annoying). Serve the Me Time Sauce in a tasteful container to the side. Some people don’t like to top mayo-heavy foods with mayo-based sauces. Those people ride around on high horses, but you have to accommodate them.
Baseball and crab cakes, that’s how people who don’t make plans do.
0.9 out of 2 Chainz
Almost a full Chain.
Dammit, 2 Chainz. This should have been a slam dunk. You blew it.
First of all, Worcestershire should always be used sparingly. Old Bay’s the better complement to crab anyway, let it be the dominant condiment. Secondly, throwing that much oil into the mix turned what should have been a delicious crab paste into something soupy and gross. Making patties out of that is a pain; and certainly not something you could do on your tour bus without spraying everyone in your proximity with crab juice. How do you think Gunplay would respond to that? Remember, his name is Gunplay and this is what he did to his accountant.
There are two ways to fix this. After you have baked the crab cakes, throw them in a pan with oil and butter and fry them up for a minute or two on each side. Adding oil and butter may seem like a dubious proposition but it’s totally it’s not. If Paula Deen has taught us anything, it’s that the best way to combat fat is by adding fat and applying heat. Also, racism.
2 Chainz life lessons
Much like Amy Adams’ character in the terrible movie trailer on which this article is based, I learned a lot about myself in preparing Crab Cakes a la 2 Chainz. The key lessons, bullet-pointed, are below:
- 2 Chainz’ grasp of the culinary arts may be looser than he has advertised.
- “Used 2” is perfect music for preparing food, running or driving. Despite its subject matter, it’s probably less perfect for the “Getting. It. On.” playlist you’ve hidden on Spotify.
- SportsCenter is better with the sound off.
- Fry, don’t bake.
- Worcestershire sauce is like Murphy Lee’s career. Always leave them wanting more.
- Learn to live with regrets.