Monday, September 26, 2011


Growing up in Maryland, blue crabs were a big thing. My family would go to the Maine Avenue Fish Market in DC (at least, that's what I think it was--dude, I was young, and just along for the ride) and visit the floating barge stalls, and buy at least a bushel of crabs.  I loved those cantankerous critters and their fresh seawater smell.  At home, my mom would boil a massive pot of crabs with plenty of Old Bay seasoning, and cook some corn on the side to boot.  We'd cover every square inch of the kitchen table with newspapers, set garbage bags at almost every seat, set out a roll of paper towels (to act as napkins), and various crab destruction tools (meat mallet, hammer, nutcracker--you name it).  When the crabs were done, they were brought to the table, nooks and crannies filled with that delicious Old Bay.

If you've eaten a blue crab, you know it's not exactly an easy feat. You have to work at it. There are multiple components, things to discard and things to eat, elusive bits of meat to pry at, methods to learn in order to crack the hard legs but not to shatter them.  You will get microscopic cuts on your hands from those pesky shells, into which the chili from the Old Bay will enter, which will make you feel very spicy.  You will work hard to clean out crab and Old Bay from under your fingernails, yet your fingertips will still carry the scent for at least a day.  

It is, for those who love the process, a ritual.  It is, for those not so into it, a pain in the ass.  It is a ritual for me, one that I love, and that I hope to enjoy again much more often now that I am back in the DC metro area.

All that being said, there is an easier, fancier way to enjoy these AWESOMELY DELICIOUS crabs. Crab cakes!  I made these last month, but with all the limbo purgatory nonsense going on in my life, I neglected to blog about them.

These are adapted from Cook's Illustrated.  

1 pound fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove cartilage or shell
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herb, such as cilantro, dill, basil, or parsley, or 2 tsp dried herbs (which is what I used because I didn't have fresh on hand--I understand that fresh would have been better oh would you leave me alone)
1 ½ teaspoons Old Bay seasoning 
2 to 4 tablespoons panko or plain dry bread crumbs 
¼ cup mayonnaise

2 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and ground pepper (use white ground pepper if you have it) 

1 large egg
¼ cup all-purpose flour or cornmeal
¼ cup vegetable oil 

Serves 4 to 8 (crab is pretty rich, so I can't be exact here, not that I ever am)

I used Phillips brand jumbo lump crab meat, pasteurized and sealed.  It was surprisingly delicious (I had strong suspicions beforehand).

Gently combine the the crab meat, herbs, Old Bay, 2 tablespoons bread crumbs, mustard and mayonnaise in a medium bowl.  You want to try and keep the lumps of crab as intact as possible. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Beat egg in a separate bowl, then gently fold into crab mixture. Gently, please.

Hehe that's not appetizing.

If the mixture is a bit wet and you can't imagine for the life of you how you'd be able to form it into cakes, then add a bit more bread crumbs or panko.  

Divide the mixture into equal parts and form them into patties about 1 1/2 inches high.  How big the patties are (the diameter) is up to you.  The original recipe called for dividing the mixture into 4 portions. I started down that road and got the feeling that I was making a crabcake the size of a birthday cake, and scaled back significantly.  I made 8 patties from this recipe--I found this led to patties small enough that they were easy to handle.  

Place the cakes on a a baking sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours.  

When you are ready to cook the crabbie cakes, put the flour (or cornmeal) on a plate or other shallow dish.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking--a nonstick skillet would be awesome here. While the oil is heating, lightly dredge the crab cakes in the flour/cornmeal (dredge only as many as can fit in the skillet--you can wait to do the others for the next batch).  

Place the dredged crab cakes in the skillet, and fry until outsides are crisp and golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.  

Serve with a wedge of lemon and whatever else it is that you decided to toss on the plate that night.



  1. LOVE that you didn't add a ton of filler to the crab cakes. Number one mistake when restaurants make them!

  2. This is the one thing I miss the most about living in Baltimore: crab season! And thanks for sharing the Jessica above, I love that you didn't add a lot of fillers! I'm going to have to try this soon!

  3. The one time I ate crabs in MD, it was sooo much work. :) These look great though. I keep reminding myself that I need to try more of your recipes.

  4. ooh this looks simple enough for me to try. I always assumed crab cakes were really complex to make. Thanks for posting!

  5. Soo - what time is dinner? I'll be over in a jiffy.
    I love the process of eating crabs, and Old Bay is SO GOOD I always ask for extra to dip the crab meat in once I've gotten it out. :) Those crab cakes look so delicious! Somehow I always thought I'd have to crack the crabs, pick the meat, THEN make crab cakes so I assumed they'd be way too much work. This looks doable - thanks for sharing!

  6. This looks fantastic! Love that you can actually see the crabby chunks...the only 'crab cakes' I've ever had were more like processed fish cake :P

  7. Mmmm, crab cakes!!! One of my favorite foods, and I'm definitely going to have to try this recipe.

    I've never attempted to eat a blue crab before (or seen it offered on a menu anywhere), but it does seem like a lot of work. Crab cakes are the way to go!

  8. those crab cakes look perfect. you are master crab cake maker.

    those snap peas look pretty tasty, too.

  9. I've made crab cakes a couple times, but they were from crab I got at our store here, meaning not good. But, next time I come visit, I would love some crab cakes from Maryland!

  10. As a native Marylander, I have to confess that I the only part of crab fests I like is socializing - otherwise, give me a crabcake! More meat, less work . . . that should be my life motto.

  11. these crabcakes look divine, i must try this recipe..

  12. thanks everyone! i agree, a big key to this recipe was the lack of filler, and lotsa crab. hope some of you get to make these!