It’s getting close to Crab Cake season which I would define as soon as the Summer Cocktail Party Circuit gets into gear. So any mention of a Crab Cake recipe gets my attention. Most Crab Cakes fall far short of expectations. They are larded with breadcrumbs. This is both to save money and because most people think the cakes will fall apart if they are not about equal parts white bread (cheap) to crab meat (decidedly not cheap). So when someone waxes poetic and says “This is the best crab cake recipe you will ever find”, I take that to be a challenge. And in this case, it’s from a man more famous for eating tarantulas, sea worms, beetles and fermented skate. You know, Andrew Zimmern.
Andrew too has been searching for the Holy Grail of Crab Cake recipes. And he found this one. His search for a recipe was quite specific. He wanted as pure and unadulterated Crab Cake that he could find. No bits of minced red pepper, no parsley and an abundance of crab. He actually went off the rails in his crab cake criticism ending up writing “Putting a lot of junk in a crab cake is one of the biggest transgressions I find in American cookery”. Strong words from a man who eats disgusting things for a living.
Fortunately he had an encounter with a friend’s wife. She was from Baltimore where crab is king. She produced her mother’s recipe which, of course, was ‘secret’ and for whatever reason called a ‘country club’ recipe for crab cakes. I would have thought the biggest transgression in this recipe is the complete lack of Baltimore’s own Old Bay Seasoning which has been in every crab cake recipe I’ve ever made. This one however, does not. In fact it’s really very basic. And Zimmern says “If you don’t overmix, and don’t pack your mounds too tightly, you will experience put unadulterated crab cake heaven.” This recipe Zimmern makes in double batches and refrigerates the leftovers. He says “If you haven’t eaten a cold crab cake on toast with tomato and Russian dressing, then you are really missing out.” Heaven forbid. Here’s the recipe:
Baltimore Country Club Crab Cakes
A truly virgin crab cake with none of the add-ons.
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
- 20 saltine crackers, finely crushed
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Step 1 In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce until smooth.
- Step 2 In a medium bowl, lightly toss the crabmeat with the cracker crumbs. Gently fold in the mayonnaise mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Step 3 Scoop the crab mixture into eight 1/3-cup mounds then lightly pack into 8 patties, about 1 1/2 inches thick
- Step 4 In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the crab cakes and cook over moderately high heat until deeply golden and heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the crab cakes to plates and serve with lemon wedges.