I love crab but it is crab cakes that are the special dish for me. My passion dates from graduate school in Baltimore, the crab cake capital of the world. Crab cakes can be enormously satisfying and always seem to draw “Ahs” at the table, and yet few of us make them. They taste so rich, can seem so complex, that they have to be difficult to make. Sadly, the ones you can get pre-fabricated in a supermarket are usually just that: fabricated. Their flavor is distinctly dry because they are made with too much bread crumb filler instead of crab. In the term “crab cake” it’s the “crab” part that’s important, not the “cake” part.
For an elegant meal — or for superior appetizers at say a Super Bowl party — nothing beats the festiveness of freshly made crab cakes. The aroma of crab and spices is sure to brighten your meal or event.
I’m attaching two crab cake recipes here. The first is from Faidley’s a famous fish store in historic Lexington Market in downtown Baltimore. This recipe uses lump crab meat and is, based on my having eaten about a hundred of them, the finest crab cake in the world. This preparation, from Chesapeake Bay Cooking by John Lewis, is very authentic. As you can see, it’s really just crab with some crackers and mayo. The taste here depends on using good lump crab meat.
If authenticity is a necessity for you, then you can order directly from Faidley’s at http://www.faidleyscrabcakes.com.
Now, lump crab meat can be a tad expensive. So, if you want to use regular crab meat, I’m attaching a delicious second recipe from I Love Crab Cakes by Tom Douglas, the prominent owner of several Seattle restaurants. This recipe is very easy to make, has just a few ingredients, and interestingly does not use an egg, egg yolk, or milk to help bind the cake together. Just some mayo. That means the cakes are a bit fragile, so you may need some additional mayo when forming them. And, as the recipe suggests, be gentle when you flip them over during the cooking process.
You can follow these recipes to create the crab mixture, then divide it into more cakes, and have mini-cakes for appetizers. In entree size, one of the cakes with a baked potato and cold beer will make you think you were back in Baltimore.
Okay, for those of you on the West Coast who believe all crabs are Dungeness, I grew up there and I understand. I Love Crab Cakes has recipes specifically for you Dungeness advocates out there. I am now totally schizophrenic about crab: both Blue and Dungeness are exceptional. You just cannot go wrong with homemade crab cakes.
Faidley’s Crab Cakes
Yield: Serves 4
1 Pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over
1 Cup crushed saltines
1/2 Cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Dash Tabasco Sauce
Spread the crabmeat out in a flat pan and sprinkle the crushed saltines over the top.
Mix together the mayonnaise, egg, mustard, Worcestershire and Tabasco in a small bowl. Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the crabmeat and gently toss or fold the ingredients together, taking care not to break up the lumps of crabmeat. Let the mixture sit for 2 to 3 minutes before forming the cakes.
Form the cakes by hand or with an ice cream scoop into 8 mounds about 3 inches in diameter and ¾ inch thick. Do not pack the mixture too firmly. The cakes should be as loose as possible, yet still hold their shape. Place the cakes on a tray or platter lined with wax paper, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking.
Pour oil into a heavy skillet to a depth of about 1 ½ inches. Heat the oil and fry the crab cakes, a few at a time, until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted utensil to paper towels to drain.
Or, broil the cakes: Slip them under a preheated broiler until nicely browned, turning to cook evenly, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
Or, sauté the cakes: Heat a small amount clarified butter or olive oil, or a combination, in a skillet and sauté the cakes, turning several times, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total cooking time.
Source: Chesapeake Bay Cooking, John Lewis.
Jacques Pepin’s Crab Cakes
Yield: Serves 4
½ pound either pasteurized or fresh crabmeat drained and picked clean of shell
1 ¼ cups fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon Tabasco
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup sliced almonds
2 to 3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil [I actually used butter for flavor]
To make the crab cakes, put the crabmeat in a bowl and add ⅔cup of the bread crumbs, the scallions, cilantro, garlic, mayonnaise, Tabasco, and salt. Mix lightly, just until the ingredients are well combined.
Put the remaining bread crumbs in the bowl of a food processor with the almonds, and process until the nuts are well chopped and combined with the bread.
Form the crab mixture into 4 patties, then dip each patty into the bread and almond mixture until it is coated on all sides.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium hat, and arrange the patties next to one another in the pan, handling them gently because the mixture is soft. Cook until golden brown on both sides and hot through, turning once with a spatula, 3 to 4 minutes per side. The internal temperature of a crab cakes should read 155° on an instant-read thermometer.
Source: I Love Crab Cakes by Tom Douglas