When you live in Maryland, eating crabs is a summer pastime: picnic tables covered with brown paper, silver buckets, buttered corn, french fries, cornbread and the unmistakable scent of seafood and Old Bay. It’s that time of year, and my mind is already drifting to all those weathered crab shacks at the Eastern Shore, where you can look out over the bay and put your feet in the sand. Is it August yet?
Some people might be so daring, but I would not attempt an all-you-can-eat crab feast at home. (Live crabs, giant steamers…yikes!) I would, however, make crab cakes, which are just as delicious and super easy to prepare. And — added bonus — your children will probably like them. At least mine do, and that includes one finicky little 5-year-old.
The most important thing when you’re making crab cakes is to use fresh, good quality lump crab meat. I get mine at Whole Foods, which can be expensive, but one pound is enough to make six generous crab cakes, which feeds my family of four easily. Or, if you live in the DC area (and are willing to make the trek into the city), you can find great quality, inexpensive crab meat at the Maine Avenue fish market.
The other key to great crab cakes is to go light on the filler. These have just enough to bind the crab meat together and add great flavor.
I love them with the tartar sauce below, but you could also serve them with lemon wedges or cocktail sauce. As for accompaniments, think corn on the cob, french fries, coleslaw or any simply prepared green vegetable.
1 large egg
2½ tablespoons mayonnaise (I like Hellman’s Real)
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup finely diced celery (you’ll need one stalk)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 pound lump crab meat
½ cup panko
1½ tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Crab Cakes: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Combine the egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, Old Bay, salt, celery, and parsley in a large bowl and mix well. Add the crab meat (be sure to check the meat for any hard and sharp cartilage) and panko; gently fold mixture together until just combined, being careful not to shred the crab meat. Shape into 6 crab cakes (about ½ cup each) and place on prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Preheat a large nonstick pan to medium heat and coat with canola oil. When oil is hot, place crab cakes in pan and cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Be careful as oil may splatter. Serve immediately with tartar sauce or a squeeze of lemon. Tartar Sauce: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.