The Very Best Crab Cakes  Recipe
The Very Best Crab Cakes

By Betty O. Corriher

Crab cakes are delicious even when it seems they're more cracker or breadcrumbs than crab. So it's just that much more delightful to bite into the kind of crab cake that Atlanta chef Kevin Walker makes, which uses a scant 2 ounces of ground cracker crumbs for every 20 ounces of crab. These are truly crab crab cakes. There are essentially three ingredients: crab, a few ground crumbs and a flavored mayonnaise to bind everything together.

Kevin's recipe is unbeatable for East Coast blue crab, but crab expert Fred Thompson (you can get his outstanding book, "Crazy for Crab: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Crab at Home") suggests that for the sweet, delicately flavored, West Coast Dungeness crab, the Old Bay seasoning may be a little strong. He recommends that the main flavors in the mayonnaise be sea salt and a little sugar. So the recipe below includes two flavored mayonnaise recipes -- one for East Coast blue crab, and one for Dungeness crab.

These crab cakes look like big chunks of crab mysteriously held together. The secret binder is mayonnaise, itself a classic example of an emulsion -- or binding -- of two liquids that don't go together: oil and water. For a good emulsion, you have to break one of the liquids into tiny droplets (oil in mayonnaise) and you have to make the other liquid (lemon juice in mayonnaise) "juicy" so it will run between the droplets. In mayonnaise, we use emulsifiers (compounds that have one end that dissolves in fat and one that dissolves in water) in egg yolks to break the surface tension of the water-type portion of mayonnaise (lemon juice) and make it "juicy."

Typically, you put the egg and lemon juice in a blender. Then, with the blender running, you slowly drizzle in oil. The blender breaks the oil into tiny droplets that are dispersed in the lemon juice. As you add more and more oil, the droplets become packed into the small amount of liquid, and the mayonnaise thickens. You have over 1 1/2 cups of oil packed into about 2 tablespoons of liquid.

When heated, the egg proteins in mayonnaise set and the mayonnaise binds or holds together the other ingredients -- in this case, crab and crumbs.

One interesting attribute of these crab cakes is that they're baked, not fried. You don't have to stand there frying just before the meal. You can shape the cakes on the baking sheet, cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. And then, when you want them, remove the plastic, brush with wine and melted butter, and bake them all at once.

A sauce is not really necessary with these crab cakes. But you can use a simple herb-flavored mayonnaise or a good tartar sauce, such as the recipe that follows.

Chef Kevin Walker's Famous Cherokee Crab Cakes

Golden brown, sensational crab cakes. Master Chef Kevin Walker of the Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta has to keep these crab cakes on the menu or there is a great protest.

Makes 3 to 4 Servings.

2/3 cup Crab Mayonnaise (select from 2 recipes below, according to crab)

1 1/4 pound fresh crab, well picked to remove any shell

2 ounces saltine crackers, ground

1/2 ounce dry white wine

3 ounces (2/3 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 F. Arrange a shelf just above the center of the oven.

Combine first three ingredients, shape into 6 cakes (a little over 3 ounces each) for 3 generous (2 cakes per person) servings. Or, you can shape into 8 smaller cakes and serve 2 to each person for 4 servings.

Place cakes on a sheet pan, brush with wine and butter. Bake until golden brown.

Crab Mayonnaise for East Coast Crab

This is a delicious seasoned mayonnaise to hold the chunks of crab together for marvelous crab cakes. A small amount of egg is added to ensure a good set.

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise

0.6 large egg (beat an egg and use slightly more than half)

1 scant teaspoon Old Bay Spice

1 scant teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/3 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/3 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix all ingredients. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Crab Mayonnaise for Dungeness Crab

This is an alteration of the recipe above more appropriate for the qualities of Dungeness crab.

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise

0.6 large egg (beat an egg and use slightly more than half)

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/3 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/3 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix all ingredients. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Smoked Pepper Tartar Sauce

Once you taste this, you may never be able to go back to ordinary tartar sauce. Charlie Hyneman in Jackson, Mississippi, served this in his restaurant with soft-shell crawfish (crayfish). Chipotles (smoked jalapeño peppers) add a little heat and fascinating flavors. Caper juice as well as capers enhances flavors.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

1 cup good quality mayonnaise (like Kraft or Hellman's)

2 teaspoons onion, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers, well drained

2 teaspoons caper juice

2 shakes Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon chopped chipotle (smoked jalapeño pepper). If these are in adobo sauce, wipe off most of the sauce with a paper towel.

Dash paprika for color

In a food processor with the steel knife, blend together the mayonnaise, onion, lemon juice, capers, caper juice and Tabasco. Add the chipotle and mix with 1 or 2 quick on/off pulses only. Mix in the paprika. Keep refrigerated until used.

The Very Best Crab Cakes Recipe, American Cuisine

Available at Eula Mae's Cajun Kitchen


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