Like a lot of kids who grew up around the Chesapeake Bay, my siblings and I used to catch crabs in the creek near our house, scooping them up with a net as they fed on barnacle-encrusted pilings. For me, there’s no better treat than blue crabs -- steamed, soft-shell, or in the crab cakes my mom makes. Like her, I’m a minimalist when it comes to these babies (and pretty much everything else..), using as few ingredients as possible to let the crabmeat shine. This is what I cook for friends when I can get my hands on Maryland crab, which sadly isn’t often enough, or just for me and my husband when we’re homesick for the bay. Ideally, you'd serve these with sliced homegrown tomatoes, Silver Queen corn-on-the-cob, and ice-cold Natty Bo. - Midge —Midge
Test Kitchen Notes
Midge describes her approach to these crisp beauties as "minimalist." In terms of ingredients, she's absolutely right. Their richness lies in their link to growing up near the spectacular Chesapeake Bay, and summer days spent catching crabs which her mother would turn into these cakes. Being geographically closer to the Left Coast, I used Dungeness Crab. Sweet crab, crisp crust, tart lemon, perfection! I ate a few of them just as is, right out of the pan, with a generous squeeze of lemon, and just for fun, stuffed a few more into a good bun along with some curls of red onion, then slathered on my sister's famous tartar sauce. It was right up there among the best dinners ever. These cakes are as perfect as a sweet, sunny, summer afternoon. - boulangere —boulangere
4-5 crab cakes
jumbo lump or backfin blue crabmeat, preferably from Maryland (or “Maryland-style,” which I’m guessing is code for North Carolina)
panko or fresh breadcrumbs
mayonnaise, homemade is best but Hellman’s will do in a pinch
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Old Bay seasoning, more or less to taste
Pick through crabmeat and discard any shells, careful not to break up those lovely clumps that you paid so dearly for.
In a large bowl, beat egg. Fold in mayo, parsley, panko, mustard, Old Bay, and salt.
GENTLY fold in crab --I use my hands-- keeping those lumps intact. The mixture will likely be loose, but that’s okay. Shape into four or five patties. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Heat butter and oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the butter stops foaming. Gently add the patties and sauté for about three minutes on each side or until they’re brown. I use two spatulas to flip them, but even if they fall apart, they still taste amazing. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.
I’m a journalist who’s covered everything from illegal logging in Central America to merit pay for teachers, but these days I write mostly about travel. I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in some far-flung locales, where poking around markets and grocery stores is my favorite thing to do. Cooking, especially baking, is my way of winding down after a long day; there’s nothing like kneading bread dough to bring you back to earth.