One of the things I loved during my teen years in Maryland was crabbing in Ocean City Maryland under the 11th street bridge in the marshy saw grass with a steel net basket and an ice filled cooler and later, eating crab cakes made from our catch. Now the term ‘Crab Cake’ can mean a lot of things to different people but to me it is a prime delicacy with almost no filler type ingredients. Indeed if you were to purchase a crab cake frozen dinner at your local grocer you would very likely end up with crab broth flavored bread crumbs which is an insult to the original intent of this dish.
In its earliest form, people would pick through steamed crabs removing meat by hand until they’d collected enough to start making these sweet lumps of heavenly goodness. But most restaurants today will use canned, pasteurized crabmeat from a wholesaler. Today I confess I do the same but it still brings me back to the days when my buddy Sam and I would go crabbing as teenagers in Ocean City. In my recipe here I will use 2 lbs of crab meat (1 lb of colossal lump crab meat and 1 lb of backfin crab meat). I start by preheating my oven to 350 degrees.
The process of making the cakes themselves is very simple. Put all crabmeat into a large bowl and make sure there are no bits of shell in them (to the best of your ability). You do not want to break up the chunks of crab meat if you can help it.
Then you will mix the other ingredients separately which will include 1 egg, 1/4 cup of mayonaise, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs. That’s right – I said just one tablespoon of bread crumbs for 2 lbs of crab meat.
Beat the egg and combine with the other wet ingredients with a whisk. Then gently fold in the crab meat, mixing all the ingredients together being careful not to break up the larger lumps. You want this mostly dry (no wet ingredients pooling at the bottom). If you do get liquids pooling at the bottom, you added too much and you will want to drain that off. That should not happen with the proportions I provide here however.
I take a large ice cream scoop and put the scooped out crab meat on a cookie sheet lined with foil that I spray with Pam or some other non stick cooking spray.
Above I have eleven 3 oz crab cakes dusted with paprika. I will bake these at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and remove them. I then put the oven on the low broil setting. I put a generous pad of unsalted butter on each crab cake and put them back in the oven on the highest rack.
In they go under the low broil for 12 minutes. I like to watch them carefully as you do not want them to burn here. The reason I bake them before broiling is because baking them sets the egg and makes the crab cakes stay together better with what little breading we have in them.
After 12 minutes, the cakes are done. I like to allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving them.
Now you can serve them with a dijon mustard and mayonaise topping or dip with capers or an aioli. But I like to eat them just as they are. These are extremely rich and I can manage about 1 and a half cakes before I am full along with a vegetable.
Here is the complete recipe:
Maryland Style Crab Cakes (serves 10 as an appetizer or 6 as a main course with a vegetable side)
- 1 lb jumbo or colossal lump crab meat picked clean of shell bits
- 1 lb backfin crab meat picked clean of shell bits
- 1 TBS bread crumbs (panko or standard)
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup mayonaise
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- Paprika (enough to dust each crab cake)
- 1 pad of butter for each crab cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Combine everything but the crab meat and butter in a large bowl, whisking well to combine.
- Gently fold in all the crab meat.
- Onto a cookie sheet lined with foil prepared with non stick cooking spray, scoop out as many crab cakes as you can with a large ice cream scoop
- Dust each crab cake with paprika
- Bake for 15 minutes and remove from oven.
- Move the top oven rack to its highest position.
- Set the oven to broil (low setting).
- Place a pad of butter on each crab cake
- Broil for 12 minutes or until the paprika starts to darken.
- Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.