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…
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.
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.