Good crab cakes are rich and soft, with an almost creamy texture and crispy crust. I know there are those that think crab cakes must have Ritz® Crackers crushed up in them, but I beg to differ. Panko crumbs are a more neutral flavor and will give you a much less dense, softer textured crab cake. You’ll get plenty of that rich, butter flavor when frying the cakes; make certain they are dark brown. Caramelization is “One Fine Thing”. The “One Fine Thing” is a reference to one of my favorite Harry Connick, Jr. songs. He wrote it for his wife and he says it’s her favorite. Check it out…the entire CD, “Every Man Should Know” is good…really good. Damn, he’s easy on The Goddess’s eyes…but alas, I digress. When I make crab cakes, which never really seems to be often enough, I always mix the binding ingredients together, then add the crab meat. Doing it this way, preserves the integrity of the crab meat. If there is any juice in the container with the crab meat, add it. There is significant flavor in that liquid.
I prefer to use a combination of leg meat and “special” crab meat, which is whiter, as you can see in the picture. I like the leg meat, as it tends to remain intact when folding, and you want to fold this mixture together, so you don’t just end up with mush. The mixture should just barely hold its shape. I use a 3 ounce ice cream scoop to make main course crab cakes. For appetizer or first course size, I use a 1 or 1 1/2 ounce scoop. It works incredibly well, it’s fast and the cakes are always perfectly formed. I plop the scoops on a plate, so you have this plate with nice mounds of crab cake “batter”. These got a bit too cozy, so I had to gently slide them apart. Now, take a metal spatula and gently press down until they flatten to about 1 inch thickness. Now this is perhaps one of the most important parts of crab cake success. Cover the plate with plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but 6-8 is even better. These beautiful babies need to rest. The resting allows the flavors to meld and the crumbs to absorb some moisture and become more cohesive.
When you’re ready to fry them, pull them out of the fridge, heat the pan and add the oil, then the butter until the butter melts and is all foamy goodness. Gently slide the cakes off of the spatula and leave them alone, don’t move them around. You want that beautiful caramelization to happen and that won’t happen if you’re messing with them. So don’t…there! After you flip them, repeat the “don’t touch” mantra. When the second side is done, after about 2-3 minutes, carefully remove to a plate or bun, add a dollop of tartar sauce or some Tropical Fruit Sauce and enjoy!
Perfect Crab Cakes
- 1/2 cup panko crumbs (you may 1-2 tablespoons more)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- grated rind of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons red bell pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon or 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon South Shore Seasoning (or Old Bay)
- 2 scallions, minced with some of the green part included
- 1 large egg, well beaten
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 8 ounces crab claw meat
- 8 ounces special crabmeat or lump crabmeat
- 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- lemon wedges
Combine all the ingredients except the crabmeat; stir until well combined, but not packed. You want these to be on the light side. Add the crabmeat and combine with the crumb mixture, but not packing it, leaving chunks of crabmeat in tact. A table fork works well. Using a 3 ounce ice cream scoop, scoop up level “bowls” of the mixture, placing them on a plate and 1/2-inch apart. You should have about 6 or 7. Using a metal spatula, flatten the cake to almost 3 inches in diameter or about 3/4-inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours.
Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron is great) over medium-high heat. Add the oil and then the butter. When the butter is melted and foamy, swirl the oil and butter together. Gently place the crab cakes in the butter mixture, being careful not to crowd them. Lower the heat to medium-low and fry the cakes for about 3 minutes. When dark brown, turn carefully so they don’t fall apart. Fry on the second side for 3 minutes. Remove from the skillet; serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon juice and Tartar Sauce or Tropical Fruit Sauce.
NOTE: If you wish to change the flavor you may add one of the following combinations:
- 3 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries and the zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 teaspoon lavender flowers
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground or chopped pink peppercorns
- 1/3 cup well-drained coarsely chopped hearts of palm
- 2 tablespoons each finely minced fresh basil and minced sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon finely minced capers and 2 tablespoon minced black olives
You can serve these on a potato hamburger or slider bun, with slices of avocado for a light lunch, if you wish. Substitute chopped hearts of palm for a more vegetarian version.
Perfect Crab Cakes Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved