This recipe is a perfect showcase for your finest, in-season crab (Merrill likes peekytoe). And sure, you can roast your own red peppers if you like. But we made these with some good quality canned crab and jarred pimientos, and they still turned out to be fresh little bites of summer -- great news for people far from crabs, or crab season. Recipe adapted slightly from Williams-Sonoma Hors d'Oeuvre (Free Press, 2001). —Genius Recipes
In a small saute pan over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the celery and onion, cover, and cook very gently until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the water if the vegetables begin to brown. Add the cream, raise the heat to medium, and simmer, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture from boiling over, until reduced and quite thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a heatproof bowl, and let cool.
Add the mustard, pimiento, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper to the cooled cream mixture and mix well. Whisk in the egg, then add the crabmeat, breaking it up a little but leaving some small lumps intact. Toss gently until evenly mixed.
Pour the bread crumbs onto a plate, spreading them in an even layer. Scoop up a golf ball-sized portion of the crab mixture and gently squeeze out any excess liquid. Shape into a small patty. The mixture will be quite wet and loose. Place the crab cake on the crumbs, then scoop more crumbs over the top. Using a spatula, carefully turn the cake over onto your palm, letting the excess crumbs fall back onto the plate. Turn the cake back over onto the spatula and slide it gently onto a platter. Repeat to make the remaining crab cakes, 12-14 in all. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, or up to 3 hours.
In a large frying pan over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the remaining butter with 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the foam subsides, gently slide half of the crab cakes into the pan. Cook the first sides until golden brown, 5-6 minutes. Turn and brown on the second sides, 4-5 minutes longer. Keep the first batch of cakes warm in a low oven. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and repeat to make the second batch of crab cakes. Serve with lemon wedges.