I love blue crabs. After emigrating from the Philippines, my uncle settled in Baltimore, Maryland. When he visited us in Ohio, he would bring bushels of steamed Maryland blue crabs, covered and coated with the crab vendor's special seasoning.
We would spread newspapers out on the table and crack open the crabs with our seasoning-covered hands, seeking the tender white morsels to dip them in vinegar mixed with chopped garlic and eat them with fingerfuls of steamed white rice. One of the youngest children, I was a vulture of sorts, perched on my dad's chair. He did the hard work of harvesting the crabmeat and handed me the sweet meat, piece by piece.
Crabcakes offer a more refined way of eating crab, and while Maryland crabs themselves may be hard to get outside of Maryland, jumbo pasteurized canned crabmeat is widely available in grocery stores in the seafood section. Much of this crab comes from Asia, but it still makes a nice crabcake.
Crabcakes are made of simple ingredients: crab, fresh breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, and an egg white to hold them together. To that I add a shot of lemon juice, a shot of tabasco, a shot of worcestershire sauce, a spoonful of dijon mustard, minced scallions and parsley, and Old Bay seasoning. Pan fry for a few minutes on each side, and you have yourself a lovely meal.
My tips on making crabcakes:
1) The best crabcakes are mostly crab, so I recommend not using too much bread. You only need enough to help hold everything together. In terms of a ratio, if I had 1 1/2 cups of crabmeat, for example, I would use about 1 cup of freshly made bread crumbs. Please do not use the dry breadcrumbs that come in a cardboard container at the grocery store, which are much too finely ground and dusty for this use.
2) Mix the mayonnaise and other seasonings together first, so you can taste it and adjust the seasonings before you add the mayonnaise dressing to the crab and breadcrumbs.
3) Use a light hand when mixing the cakes together. You don't want to break up the crab too much.
4) After you shape the crabcakes, let them set up in the refrigerator for one hour.
Panfry and enjoy. You can serve these with tartar, shrimp cocktail, or remoulade sauce, but I like them with just a squirt of lemon juice.
Since I cook by "eye," I've included pictures so you can see how things look at each stage. I've put together a recipe below, but these are approximations. Taste as you go along.
Makes about 12 crabcakes
16 oz. can of jumbo lump crabmeat
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from good bread (use a mini-food processor to make crumbs; you may need a little more or a little less)
3 small scallions, minced
Fresh parsley, minced
Old Bay Seasoning
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 egg whites or 1 egg
2 tsp. dijon mustard
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Couple shots of worcestershire sauce
Couple shots of tabasco
Salt and pepper
In a bowl, lightly mix crab, breadcrumbs, parsley, and scallions together, sprinkling Old Bay Seasoning every time you gently turn the mixture so that the seasoning gets distributed evenly along with the other ingredients (see picture above). Set aside.
In another bowl, mix together mayonnaise, egg whites, mustard, lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, tabasco, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Gently fold mayo mixture into crab mixture, being careful not to mash the crab. See the picture above for how the completed mixture looks.
Using a 1/2 cup measure, form crabcakes into patties and place them on a non-stick surface (I use a Silpat or easy release aluminum foil), gently pressing and pushing them into a patty shape. Alternately, you can make them smaller if you're making appetizer size portions. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour to set.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add a thin film of olive oil into the pan. Add crabcakes to the pan, being careful not to break them. Turn down heat to medium and cook 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. If you're cooking in batches, put the finished crabcakes in a 200 degree oven so they stay warm.
Serve and enjoy with your favorite sauce.