We're also a bit stubborn when it comes to crab cakes. Don't get me wrong, we love all things crab and have never, at least to my knowledge, turned away a crab cake. (Who would do such a terrible thing?) But because my parents were born and raised on the eastern shore of Maryland, a.k.a. crab country, they grew up with a very clear picture of what a crab cake should look like: large lumps of crab meat, absolutely no bread, and a patty that can barely hold itself together.
There are two basic types of crab cakes. One involves finely minced crab meat mixed with bread crumbs or bread and seasonings. I'll concede that they do often make for smooth, uniform patties, but the taste of the crab is overwhelmed by the bread crumbs and other filler ingredients. The second kind, my favorite, are chunky and rustic and fall apart more often than they stay together. (You've heard about my penchant for homemade-looking foods by now.) The only way to possibly keep them together is a brief stint in the freezer to chill the cakes before frying. But it's so worth it. These are the real deal, people. After all, what would you expect from a recipe titled "Crabby Crab Cakes"?
Rather than handle the crab mixture too much, I used a measuring cup to make the cakes. I coated the cup with nonstick spray before I began so that each packed crab cake came out with ease.
Easy as... well, cake. Covered, chilled, and lightly floured before frying. About the frying -- I used a mixture of butter and oil for the best flavor. Because butter makes everything better! This step is about the time when my stomach started growling and my brain had to keep me from plucking a crab cake straight out of the hot oil. Bad, Katy.
While butter bubbled around the sweet crab, I prepared some corn and roasted green beans to round out my Maryland summer feast. Sitting down to this dinner made me miss my family so much and long for weekends at the river.
The nutty green beans (you must try roasting them!) with the sweet corn were easily the brightest parts of my plate. But the crab cakes? Obviously the tastiest. Topped with a little bit of Old Bay aioli (Old Bay + mayonnaise) for some coastal kick, these were off the chart! The crab meat just fell apart and the sweet ocean flavor really took center stage. Don't save these for a special occasion. Make them whenever your heart desires and know that you've done it the right way... the Maryland way :)
A few notes: You can choose to do the frying step with all oil, but make sure it's a neutral-tasting oil like canola or vegetable. Something like peanut oil will overpower the flavor of the crab.
Crabby Crab Cakes
(adapted from Mark Bittman of the New York Times)
-makes 4 crab cakes
1 pound lump crab meat (fresh is ideal, but canned is just fine)
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
Ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Lemon wedges, for serving
Gently combine crab, egg, mustard, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons flour. Cover mixture, and put in freezer for 5 minutes. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions. Using a greased 1 cup measure, press each portion into cup and press and shape to form. Line plate with plastic wrap, and put crab cakes on it. Cover crab cakes with more plastic wrap, and refrigerate them for about 30 minutes (or as long as 1 day), or freeze for 15 minutes.
Put flour for dredging in a bowl. Combine oil and butter in 12-inch skillet, and turn heat to medium. When butter melts and its foam subsides, gently dredge a crab cake in the flour. Gently tap off excess flour, and add crab cake to pan; repeat with remaining crab cakes, and then turn heat to medium-high.
Cook, rotating cakes in pan as necessary to brown the first side, 5 to 8 minutes. Turn, and brown the other side (it will take slightly less time). Serve cakes hot, with lemon wedges.