This week we're talking about crab cakes, one of my most favorite things to eat! Growing up as a commercial crab fisherman's daughter, my family ate a LOT of crab when I was growing up. It wasn't until I was in college that I started to understand that a daily dose of Dungeness crab was a total luxury! I've always been a crab cake fan though, from the very beginning. I hope you are too! Read on for a really exceptional recipe and more crab cake tidbits.
This week at the shop we have a nice variety of fresh local seafood. Dover Sole, Halibut (and it's finally starting to drop a bit in price!), Black Cod, Manila Clams, Pacific Oysters, Mussels, Wild Salmon, Rock Cod, True Cod, and we're holding out hope for Ling Cod and Petrale Sole for the weekend. This week's exotics include Ahi Tuna and Moonfish (aka, Opah). We also have a fresh Alaska troll-caught King Salmon, along with our Washington Coho. The clam chowder is hot in the pot and crab cakes are on special this week.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you really need to have a *signature* crab cake recipe. You might be the type to cook and catch your own crab or you might be someone who purchases your crab meat, but either way you're looking at four main cake components. We'll start with the easy one!
1. Crab Meat
There's nothing better than Dungeness. If you MUST make crab cakes for 57 people and you're not independently wealthy, then we concede that you might consider a blue crab or some other type of crab meat to use in addition to Dungeness... but if you really want a good cake, go Dungie or go home!
This is most often bread crumbs. We are newly fond of using a Japanese bread crumb called "panko" but we've also delved into crushed Ritz crackers and been happy with the buttery results. Italian style bread crumbs work nicely as well but add a very distinctive flavor, and of course, you can always make your own.
There's nothing worse than a dry crab cake. They usually fall apart and although they can still be very tasty, they're just not really a success. For years we used raw beaten eggs for this important task, but lately we've been intrigued by the idea of leaving the egg out and using mayonnaise. This tactic helps to avoid over or undercooking your cake. If you leave out the egg you don't have any raw product in your cakes and can feel comfortable about a nice thick cake that's browned perfectly and only warmed through the center.
And here is where you can really get creative! We like the standard onion and garlic, but from there the world is your oyster. A sprinkling of curry powder? Perhaps a dash of Worcestershire? Habanero? The list goes on and on!
Construction and Cooking
You're going to want to be nice to your crab cakes. Over mixing and compacting a crab cake will lead to a denser, heavier cake that might not cook properly. If you like a crispy exterior, we recommend a panko coating as a final step. And lastly, we find you get the best results if you let your cakes sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before cooking. This lets the ingredients all sort of meld together and the cake seems to bind better as well, preventing a premature crumble.
We have three favorite ways to cook crab cakes; pan fry, bake or broil. (We've even barbequed in a pinch, but you have to be extra careful!) We've had the best success with the pan method using a little bit of melted butter mixed with the same amount of olive oil in a nonstick pan. (The oil seems to keep the butter from browning and burning before your cake is browned.) DON'T OVERCOOK YOUR CRAB CAKES! If you're using raw egg, you need to get it cooked all the way through so keep them fairly thin, but you can really ruin a crab cake by overcooking the crab meat. It gets tough and chewy and it's just a disaster. Don't do it! Cook your cake on medium to medium-high heat for just a few minutes, long enough to brown both sides and warm the interior to perfection.
A well done crab cake is such a treat! We hope these tips inspire you to create your own signature crab cake recipe. And, as always, if you're in a pinch for time or just feeling like something quick-gourmet, we offer a very nice crab cake at our shop from Whole Foods Market that's all natural and 100% delicious!