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.