Just Across the Bay

The best crabs around these parts (the US mid-Atlantic region) reside in the Chesapeake estuary, and Baltimore celebrates them better than do most other places.  Among the bounty of shellfish preparations the city offers, none matches Crab Cakes.  Particularly not when the leading ingredient is crab.  Astoundingly huge nuggets of sweet, flaky crab.

It’s a pity the thought didn’t occur sooner, else a better picture than the above would’ve been a crab cake split open to reveal its inside stuffed stem-to-stern with divinely tasty morsels.  As it is, though, an untouched crab cake still gives some idea of the splendor waiting within.  Nothing prepares for the bay of crab, however, which the batter barely holds in place.  Obviously, the cakes’ “untouched” status lasted about two seconds (not even) after the above picture was snapped.  Mmmmm….

Restauranteur Andrew Zimmern understands the appeal, and when he wrote about the experience in the September 2018 Food & Wine, it mesmerized crab lovers everywhere.  Of course, a batter would have to be spectacular to keep up with the crabs’ magnificence, and today’s is.  Also…Old Bay

Naturally, the situation calls for Old Bay.  Of course, most do.  C’mon, crabs are the first item shown…

Anyway, the breading’s simplicity lets its ingredients glow, from Worcestershire sauce’s savor to Dijon’s zing and a splash of hot sauce which enlivens the mixture.  Crushed saltines are enough (and just so, at that) to hold everything together, and they anticipate the whole saltines and lemon wedges that are served alongside, in true Baltimore style.

Just as the breading ties everything together so too does a good drink, particularly a citrusy golden lager which complements the crab (and the Old Bay too!).   Fortunately, such a concoction is brewed on the Chesapeake’s eastern shore, in Delaware.  This is a perfect combination, though any celebration of crab cakes is, as always, a story about Baltimore.

*****

Baltimore-Style Crab Cakes

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  •  1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (*1)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper, optional (*2)
  • 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
  • 20 saltine crackers, finely crushed (*3)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (*4)
  • lemon wedges, for serving

In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce, until smooth.

In a large bowl gently toss together the cracker crumbs and the crab.  Gently fold in the mayonnaise mixture. (*5)  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, up to overnight.

Scoop the crab mixture into 1/3-cup mounds.  Lightly flatten them to form thick disks, as pictured above.

Place a large skillet over a medium-high flame.  Pour in the oil and heat it until it shimmers.  Add the crab cakes and cook them until they’re golden-brown all over, about three minutes per side.  Transfer to a platter and serve with lemon wedges.

NOTES:

1 – So help me, I used sriracha.  Not a very Maryland ingredient, or even Western Hemisphere for that matter, but I find sriracha‘s more refined heat better compliments the crab’s delicacy.

2 – Not in the original recipe, though white pepper adds a trace of mysterious spirit.

3 – Plus more for serving.  That is, if you want a meal similar to what’s enjoyed in Maryland.

4 – As I rather like peanut oil, I used it instead.  Canola oil is fine, though.

5 – This paragraph’s operative word seems to be “gently,” doesn’t it?  Fitting, as signs greeting newcomers entering Maryland asks them to, “Please Drive Gently.”  Really?  Obviously the sign makers forget half the Beltway snarls through Maryland.  No gentleness there.

 

41 thoughts on “Just Across the Bay

  1. I grew up by the seaside and we had a prawning [shrimp] license for many years and we were good!

    Seafood is the one I miss most as a veggo but must admit when it comes straight from the ocean I always preferred it au naturel. I had told my friends we used to catch hundreds/thousands of prawns, that we used to just cut the oysters off, swish them in the sea and let them slide down. They thought I was exaggerating but a week ago they visited my old haunts and knew I’d spoken the truth. This place is their natural habitat and due to people’s fear of pollution they are returning in fierce numbers.

    So as nature gives us flood fire and viruses it allows some space for nature to bloom 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great story, Kate! Powerful experience, too, taking the first beneficial steps of releasing the oysters, then returning years later to witness the all the good you did.

      So many good deeds are committed “blindly,” with the hope, but not the knowledge, they’ll let good things happen. In this case, though, you witness the results firsthand.

      Your story mirrors, in a way, what happened with crabs in the Chesapeake. For a while, there was so much industry along the shores, the bay was overwhelmed and couldn’t replenish itself. The pollution also made crab populations plummet.

      Eventually, industry faded and its factories closed, taking with them all the jobs they provided once. That also meant pollution lessened, though, and crab populations began to recover. Now, there are increasing numbers of jobs in crab fishing and processing. Not an even exchange, to be sure, but as the crabs rebounded, so too did the job market.

      One small link in that chain was the can of Phillips jumbo crab meat I bought for this project. More expensive than the usual stuff from Vietnam, but it seemed important to support the Chesapeake economy on this one.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. yes Keith, I sincerely believe that if we have the wealth we should buy locally … helps the economy!
        Yes even the star fish survived but no where the numbers of when I was young 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Maybe not, Kate, but still, your efforts, your foresight, gave the system a chance it wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise. Without the hopes of a young Kate, there might be nothing “there” right now. Instead, a working ecosystem still awaits its future. And it shows its gratitude every day.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, please don’t stop, Kate! That’d be black-letter day around here, losing a faithful, interesting and, yes, sparkling, conversation partner. Plus I have things planned for the months ahead I think you’ll like. Can’t wait to read your thoughts about those.

        You write of qualifications. Okay. Do you like food? Are you curious about your surroundings? Do you make interesting observations? Yes, yes and yes. It all checks out, Kate. In fact, you have three times as many green check marks as you need.

        If anyone should worry about qualifications it is I. What the h*** do I know about poetry? I have the nerve to comment on your blog too? “Huh? I don’t get it. It don’t even rhyme.”

        Liked by 2 people

      4. ah but your comments are always thoughtful Keith, I too would miss our interactions! So I declare that we are both fully qualified to comment all over each others posts ❤

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Salmon is a good riff on this, Tamara, definitely. Sliced shrimp might be okay too. What do you think?

      As for he Salmon Patties, coming soon. Or…eventually, at least. Let’s get to some other things first, then salmon gets its day in the sun.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my, Crystal. Most flattering!

      If it’s available in Houston, and I couldn’t imagine why it wouldn’t be, don’t forget the Old Bay! I nearly did, resulting in the additional photo.

      Profit from my experience, and succeed where I failed. Well, not failure, as I did remember the Old Bay after I snapped the photo, but still…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds good, Crystal!

        I think you’ll be in luck, as you’re seeking things the mob hasn’t decimated. Up here, poultry and beef have disappeared, yet the fishmonger still has a well-supplied case. The herd’s loss, our gain.

        Plus, let the corona-clique cobble together something with what was left on the shelves. Not much you can make with chicken wings, cough drops and ALF paper towels. Meanwhile, you’ll be preparing a dish you and your family actually will want to eat.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. To whomever may be reading and considering these crab cakes:

        First of all, go now and buy that crab!

        I’m a huge crab cake fan. My husband and I tend to order them as appetizers when we dine out. And of course, we’re not dining out at the moment, so I thought these would be a treat. And treat—well, that’s an understatement!! They were divine!! Like straight out of heaven. One pound of crab made eight cakes, so we had them two days in a row. On the second day, they were even more amazing (my pan was hotter—medium high). I thought I had peanut oil, but I didn’t, so I used canola. I thought I had Dijon, but I didn’t, so I used spicy brown.

        Oh, and I am no chef, but I totally feel like one now. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks, Crystal! It does the heart good to consider the improvements you’ve made.

        “Chef” you may disclaim, but chef you are! (Yoda?) After all, “chef” is shorthand for “chef de cuisine,” or, “chief of the kitchen.” Your latest innovations prove you know your way around the stove. Your successful improvisations show you don’t just have a pantry, but yo know how to use it. Pretty chef-y, if you ask me.

        Who knows? An innovation or two may gain a permanent home on the recipe card, even after our supply chains are back to 100% After all, no recipe is established; it evolves constantly, with successive improvements over the years, decades, centuries and, eventually, millennia.

        I love making my own crab cakes, as it provides the opportunity to load up as much crab as the batter can hold. No restaurant’s economizing half-measures here!

        Like

  2. Love this so much! Old Bay seasoning always has me thinking of crab boils and warm summer evenings. It’s barely spring but I am ready to leap ahead a bit considering we may get a little snow tonight.

    Slightly off topic, how are the grocery stores holding up in your neck of the woods? I realized when I visited a local supermarket yesterday that I may need to get *really* creative with the substitutions in my recipes in the coming weeks. It looks like I won’t necessarily be able to expect everything on my shopping list will be available. Now I wish I picked up some crab to enjoy while I ride this out. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks much, Summer! The temp’s predicted to approach 70 degrees within the next couple days, only to yield to snow by the weekend. With the daffodils blooming and the maples budding, we’re quite done with winter, though the season has yet to return the favor.

      As for the local markets, paper products, cleaning supplies, milk, eggs and bread – Soviet Union. Everything else, still the land of plenty. Fortunately for the blog, cooking items are unscathed, or are ones already in the pantry pre-corona. So, all systems go for this weekend, and next weekend’s looking good too.

      How’s your larder faring? You’d think the empty shelves would put a kink in your creativity, but you’re hopping from triumph to triumph as the days unfold. Either you’re A) super-talented in creating masterpieces from seemingly nothing, or B) you have so many good ideas, something’s bound to match current inventories. My guess is, “Yes.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The same products you mentioned are also in short supply here. In addition, plain frozen fruits and veggies, as well as long-lasting fresh veggies (like potatoes), were in short supply the last time I went to the store.

        I tend to write posts about a month ahead, so I wouldn’t expect any major changes to my site until mid-April. I have a lot of dried and frozen foods at home but I may need to cut back on recipes with fresh produce. We’re probably best off making fewer trips to the store at this point since the virus reached my county.

        I’m thinking that folks can only stock up for so long; eventually the stores will get a chance to catch up! Hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later. I’m hearing of people needing to barter eggs for toilet paper and other common items at the moment. It’s amazing to me how quickly things changed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, Summer, now all becomes clear. Still, it would’ve been funnier if you left me baffled. Your response to my wondering how you do it should’ve been, “I’m magic.”

        I definitely echo your hopes about the resupply situation. My pantry, and finding things the hysterics overlooked, will hold me over for a couple weeks or so, but pretty soon I’m going to need some of the basics again.

        The horde definitely overdid things, though, and some, no doubt, now have way too many of some pretty odd items. “What am I going to do with fifty pounds of Juicy Fruit?”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’ve been secretly imaging the stockpilers, sitting on giant thrones made of more toilet paper than they will ever use in a lifetime. What in the world will they do with it all? 🤣🤣🤣

        We’ve decided not to go back to the stores until mid-April since cases of the virus have been ramping up here. The tp was the sole item that could not be found anywhere. If you told me a few weeks ago a killer virus was going to take over the world, everything (including schools) would close as people hide in their homes, and toilet paper and eggs would become a rare commodity, I would probably have laughed and told you you’ve clearly been watching too many bad sci-fi movies. It’s surreal.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks too, idiots, for obsessing over TP, thus forcing me to think about things I’d rather not. Five years from now, coronavirus will be long gone and forgotten, yet I still will think about the hoard’s bathroom situation and shudder.

        Sixty years hence, people will be going through these people’s homes after they’re gone, and will wonder what the deal was with having four closets full of the stuff. “Were they, like, in a cult or something?”

        Anyway, I’m heading out to the stores again tomorrow, the first time in over a week, and I hope I don’t chortle as much as I did the last time. That’s the honest truth. When I spied the completely empty paper supply aisle, I laughed. I didn’t think the stories could possibly be true, but they were!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I know. It’s pretty wild how quickly it got cleared out on the national level. Some are definitely sitting on far more than what could be contained in a few closets.

        Good luck on your store trip! I hope you find everything you have on your shopping list. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Odd this is what comes to most people’s minds when they hear “Emergency.” Definitely not the first word association I would make. Or even the 167th, for that matter.

        While the paper products aisle still is hollow, aside from a few unfortunate rolls of house brand paper towels (made from particle board, apparently), the other sections begin to regenerate. Eggs are at quarter-staff, while milk is mostly full. Produce is getting close to pre-virus levels, while bread’s back at 100%.

        I did source enough items to inaugurate a new recipe this weekend, though, so your wishes definitely brought good mojo, Summer!.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. This is where a refined culinary taste serves you well, Summer. What the herd devours, you don’t necessarily need, and vice-versa.

        Certain staples are universal to recipes, and empty shelves do take their toll, but slowly, even the basics recover.

        Meanwhile, you use your specialty items, and your creativity, to make magic. Hey Presto, another triumph, Summer!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Since I don’t eat shellfish, suddenly I’m wondering if you can make a crab cake out of chicken. I suppose it could be done… and considering that the Barenaked Ladies declared years ago that “It’s all been done” I’m guessing someone out there has already tried it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chicken could work, JoAnn, particularly if you choose a “lighter”-tasting piece such as a breast.

      Tamara, another commentator, suggested using salmon. That’d fill in nicely too.

      That’s what cooking is all about, isn’t it? Taking the basic concept and improving it with your own innovations. Thus, you keep the conversation going, and you a step (or a few) closer to a masterpiece. Keep dreaming!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! Saber-toothed tigers may look cool, but we developed the bigger brain capacity (well, a least most of us did) for a reason. The argument has been made, and I endorse it, that the cooking fire simultaneously lit civilization’s torch.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, Daniela! The best part? Your kitchen, your rules.

      Which means, you can use top-quality crab, if your budget allows. When you have it, lay on as much shellfish as the batter will hold together. Come on, splurge on the good stuff. This is an indulgence, and a rare opportunity to set a masterpiece in front of your guests.

      Liked by 1 person

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