How to improve the world-famous Maryland crab cake recipe? It might not be possible, but I decided to give it a go by adding a slight Parisian twist to the dish. The whole idea started after Len and I returned from a recent trip to Baltimore and Annapolis, Maryland, cities located on the Chesapeake Bay – which is about 200 miles long and filled with crabs, oysters and rockfish.
Because the Chesapeake Bay is teeming with seafood, Marylanders have developed their own trademark crab cake recipe, typically made from blue crabs and seasoned with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, bread crumbs and Old Bay seasoning mix.
Old Bay is made of celery salt, ground dried bay leaves, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and other spices. It gives a nice spicy, smoky flavour and is ideal for sea food and chicken recipes. Old Bay was purchased by McCormick & Co in 1990, but you can make your own mixture if you cannot find it in your local supermarket.*
Maryland Crab Cakes are usually formed into large round cakes and are either fried or broiled. We recently ate crab cakes and onion rings at ‘Chick and Ruth’s Delly’ in Annapolis, Maryland and their crab cakes were absolutely HUMONGOUS:
Crab Cakes at ‘Chick and Ruth’s Delly’ (Annapolis)
For my own style of crab cakes though, I decided to steer away from the HUMONGOUS, instead going for a more ‘delicate’ presentation – one you might perhaps find in Paris (or maybe that’s in my imagination), while still retaining some of the traditional flavors of the Maryland crab cake. Plus I added a few more herbs such as chives and basil.
So, here is my own recipe for Crab Cakes. You can use any kind of crab meat – I decided to use fresh Dungeness crabs since they are found on the west coast of the USA, where I am now based. But you could also use canned crab although I find that fresh crab is best.
Rather than using store-bought mayonnaise, it’s best to make your own mayonnaise from scratch – very easy to do if you have your own food processor (I used a mini-processor). You will use the mayonnaise as a binding agent for your crab cakes, but set aside a little to use later as garnish for your crab cakes. AND go easy on the Old Bay or else your cakes will taste too salty.
- 750 g (3/4 lb) crab meat
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tbsp. chopped shallots
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped chives
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
- freshly ground pepper
- 2 egg yolks whisked with 1 tbsp. water
- 2 cups dried bread crumbs, finely chopped
For the Mayonnaise
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
- 1 shallot, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) peanut or canola oil
- To remove the meat from the crab, first lift the back from the crab. You will see some entrails and ‘lungs’ – remove these from the crab.
- Turn the crab so that the legs are placed on either side of you; grasp the body and pull the crab in half, then remove the meat.
- Use pliers or a ‘nut cracker’ to crack the legs open and pick out the meat.
4. Place the crab meat into a bowl; add the garlic, shallots, basil, chives and black pepper and mix well; set aside.
5. To make the mayonnaise, place the following ingredients into a food processor: egg yolk, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and zest, Old Bay and shallots . Pulse on ‘high’ until all ingredients and processed until smooth.
6. With the motor running, gradually add the oil a little at a time until the mixture emulsifies into a mayonnaise.
7. Using a spatula, fold the mayonnaise into the crab mixture, but reserve a small amount to serve later as extra sauce for the crab cakes.
8. Firmly pack the crab meat into each pastry ring. Prepare the egg wash by mixing the 2 egg yolks with 1 tbsp. water in a small bowl; brush the egg wash onto the top of each pastry ring, packed with the crab meat (this is to help the bread crumbs stick to the crab meat).
9. Place the dried bread crumbs onto a large plate. Transfer each pastry ring to the plate and sprinkle bread crumbs on top of the crab meat mixture. Using a spatula, turn over the ring, brush the other side with the egg wash and sprinkle it generously with bread crumbs.
10. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a fry pan over medium high heat. Place one crab meat/pastry ring at a time over the heat and cook for about 2 minutes, until the bottom becomes golden brown. Using a spatula, turn the ring over and brown the other side.
11. Transfer the crab cake to a serving plate and then gently remove the ring- your crab cake should have a nice round shape. To garnish, sprinkle each cake with finely died chives and red bell pepper. Serve a dollop of the reserved mayonnaise on the side for extra sauce.
* To make your own Old Bay seasoning, refer to: http://busycooks.about.com/od/homemademixes/r/oldbaymix.htm