Crab Cakes!

26 May

I love making good, flavorful food; even if it takes a little bit of extra work.  Of course, this isn’t always possible, but this weekend I spoiled myself and my husband with a lot of good cooking.  On Monday I shared crab cakes from my own recipe with my family; even my mom the seafood-hater agreed that they were excellent.

I first developed these crab cakes a few years ago, when I bought a can of crab on sale.  I looked through a few recipe books but just couldn’t find anything that looked appealing.  Most of the crab cake recipes involved copious amounts of old bay seasoning and mayo and not much else.  You can make these crab cakes with canned crab, but they will have a better taste and texture if you spend the time and money to use actual crab legs for at least part of the recipe.  We’ve done a lot of experimenting over the last few years and we’ve determined that the breadcrumbs mixed into the crab do actually have a purpose aside from allowing you to make a few more cakes; they keep the crab meat itself very moist (we mixed up batches with and without breadcrumbs and the ones with just crab were far more dry).

Obviously, you can tweak the recipe however you like; for my dad’s birthday, we made six times as much of the mixture, and made mini cakes.  So we ended up with quite a lot.  But this basic recipe makes six medium-sized cakes (about the size of your standard muffin tin – you’ll see why that works out well later) and is easy to double.

Elisa’s Crab Cakes

  • 2 tsp onion, chopped fine
  • 2 tsp celery, chopped fine
  • 2 tsp bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • dash worsteshire sauce
  • dash dill
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/4 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 cup lump crab meat (approx. 2 legs fresh king crab or 1 can lump crabmeat)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs or 10-12 crackers or 2-3 pieces dry toast, crumbled; yes, I recognize that this sounds like a lot but they really are a lot more tender with the addition of a good bit of “filler” to retain the moisture), plus more to coat cakes
  • 1 egg

These crab cakes come together in just a few steps; I did mine in separate bowls, but you can probably do yours in one big bowl if you plan it right.

  • In a small sautee pan, cook the onion, celery, and bell pepper together over medium-low heat until they soften.
Veggies, cut fine and cooking

Veggies, cut fine and cooking

  • Combine mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, worsteshire sauce, and herbs and spices in a bowl.
The mayonnaise mixture

The mayonnaise mixture

  • Add cooled vegetables, crab, egg, and panko breadcrumbs to the sauce.  Mix well.
For my extra-large recipe, I used two bowls; I mixed the crab and veggies in one and then poured the mayonnaise mixture from the other

For my extra-large recipe, I used two bowls; I mixed the crab and veggies in one and then poured the mayonnaise mixture from the other

The crab cake mixture before shaping

The crab cake mixture before shaping

  • Using your hands, shape each crab cake into a ball or a thick disc shape.  We used to shape them and drop them onto a plate of panko bread crumbs and roll them right then, but I read someplace that if you let them chill in muffin tins in the fridge, they hold their shape better.  Sure enough, we tried it with our crab cakes this time, and they stayed together much more easily.  You don’t need to grease the muffin tin; just flip it over onto parchment or wax paper on the counter when they’ve chilled for about a half hour and smack the bottom of the muffin tin.  While you’re letting the cakes chill, you can preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Crab cakes turned out of the muffin tin and ready to be rolled

Crab cakes turned out of the muffin tin and ready to be rolled

  • Roll your crab cakes in panko breadcrumbs and place them on a cookie sheet.  You could, I suppose,pan or deep fry them, and they would be fantastic.  But these are honestly excellent baked – and the panko gets nice and crisp in the oven (which is why we use it).
All rolled in panko, this cake's ready to bake!

All rolled in panko, this cake's ready to bake!

Crispy baked crab cakes!

Crispy baked crab cakes!

Now, of course, the question is how to serve these…

You could always go with a nice remoulade sauce; traditional but with good reason.  I have made several variations on remoulade recipes for these cakes, and they go very nicely.  But about a year ago, my husband (then-fiancee) was making these and decided to marinate some tomatoes in vinegar.  We’re not quite sure why, but this was the best combination we’d ever found with the crab cakes, and we make it every time we eat them now.  It’s super-easy, too!

Just marinate a handful of grape or cherry tomatoes (cut into quarters) in a mixture of pineapple and white wine vinegars with just a touch of olive oil, black pepper, and granulated garlic.  We typically use about 1 tbsp of the pineapple vinegar, 1 tsp of white wine vinegar, and 1 tsp of olive oil for two servings’ worth of tomatoes.  Let the tomatoes sit and “pickle” for 15 or 20 minutes; the longer they sit, the stronger they’ll be.  Drain most of the vinegar off before serving over the crab cakes.

Colorful and flavorful; crab cake with pickled tomatoes

Colorful and flavorful; crab cake with pickled tomatoes

Of course, we’ve made some pretty awesome variations on this recipe. 

For Hubby’s 30th birthday, I made a bunch of his favorites for a party I threw him; of course he wanted my crab cakes, but his best friend is a vegetarian.  So I made chickpea cakes, using the same basic recipe but subsituting drained, rinsed, and mashed chickpeas instead of crab and added several cloves of garlic to the vegetable mixture.  I cut out the worsteshire sauce and dill, and the chickpea cakes were a big hit. 

Then, some time about a year and a half ago, I had leftover shrimp lying around.  I used the food processor to get the shrimp into little pieces and used the same combination I’d used for the chickpea cakes (garlic, no worsteshire or dill) and added about a 1/4 teaspooon of cayenne pepper.  Excellent!

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