Dish of the Month: Lump Crab Cakes at Artisan 179

BY NICOLE KIEFERT  |  PHOTO BY DAVID SZYMANSKI

There’s no better coda to a beautiful day on Pewaukee Lake than savoring a flavorful seafood dish at a cozy eatery overlooking the water.

Patrons of Artisan 179 not only find delicious “surf” options like New England fluke, lump crab cakes and Thai shrimp — and plenty of “turf” options too — but those delectable dishes also boast an international edge. Executive Chef Matt Miller calls upon his experience creating global cuisine in New York to offer familiar meals with a touch of exotic flair.
“If you look at the menu, it’s very global and that’s kind of my style,” Miller explains. “I don’t really have one specialty. I dabble all over the place.

“Around here, especially in Lake Country, there’s a lot of classic steak houses — 5 O’Clock Club and Red Circle Inn,” he continues. “Really old-school American [cuisine]. There isn’t a whole lot of ethnic cuisine available around here, so people definitely do like that.”

In an effort to balance the familiar with the new, Miller also “sneaks” surprising ingredients into dishes. He works frequently with seaweed, adds Indian spices and other Indian ingredients to familiar plates, and infuses broth with edamame. “We sprinkle different ingredients wherever we can, without overwhelming people to the point where they won’t order [a dish] because they have no idea what it is,” he explains.

A tasty example of a surprising ingredient with a purposeful, powerful punch is Miller’s use of shrimp mousse in the exquisite lump crab cake shown here.

“The crab cake is a pretty unique recipe,” he says. “Instead of using any sort of bread or [filler] to hold it together, we make a shrimp mousse. Then we fold that into the crab and [add] some onion and garlic and herbs. That’s actually what holds it together, so when the crab cake cooks, the shrimp mousse cooks and that binds everything together. There’s absolutely no bread other than the bread crumbs on the outside.

“It makes it a really light and flavorful crab cake,” Miller continues. “You’re adding more of that shellfish flavor, but it’s not enough to overpower the crab flavor.”

For an additional twist, Miller opted for a Mexican theme for the dish. Wanting to pair crab with avocado led him to lay the cake on a bed of guacamole made with cumin and lime juice for a “real basic guacamole,” according to the talented chef, who also spent time at Milwaukee’s c.1880, Ardent and Cafe at the Plaza. A guajillo chili vinaigrette offers a balance of sweet and sour and, finally, the cake is topped with watermelon radish, frisée and pepitas for extra crunch.

“It’s just the different flavors and exposing people to new flavors and different ingredients that they haven’t heard of,” Miller says of his mission at Artisan 179. “That lets me find ingredients I haven’t heard of too, instead of just the usual meat and potatoes that we all grew up with in Wisconsin.”

Artisan 179, 179 W. Wisconsin Ave., Pewaukee, (262) 691-0200, artisan179.com  MK

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