Eric and I don’t make seafood at home very frequently, and that’s something I really want to change. Way back when I thought I didn’t like seafood, crab was always my exception. I’ve always enjoyed crab cakes, but the few recipes I’ve tried were never quite right. Crab cakes are simple, but there are several things that can go wrong when making them. Too little binder will result in cakes that fall apart when cooked, while too much binder masks the flavor of the crab. The texture can quickly go from chunky to pasty if you overwork them, and they can fall apart during cooking if you’re not careful. Obviously the right recipe would suffer from none of these problems, and I’m happy to report that this is that recipe.
These crab cakes are exactly what crab cakes should be. They’ve got a wonderfully crisp exterior and a chunky, creamy and flavorful interior. What’s the secret to making these so perfect? First, only adding enough bread crumbs to hold the cakes together. The seasoning is minimal but is all meant to enhance the flavor of the crab. A quick stint in the refrigerator helps hold the cakes together during cooking, and a light dredging in flour ensures a well-browned crust. These come together quickly and cook even faster. Served with a side of steamed asparagus, this was an elegant and easy meal. If you’re still looking for something to make for a Valentine’s Day dinner at home, I highly recommend giving this recipe a try. You definitely won’t regret it.
For best results, use fresh or refrigerated/pasteurized crabmeat in this recipe.
Pan-Fried Crab Cakes with Homemade Tartar Sauce
Serves 4, Sauce makes about 1 cup
For the crab cakes:
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over to remove cartilage and shell fragments
4 scallions, green parts only, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2-4 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
Salt and white pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Lemon wedges, for serving
For the tartar sauce:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and minced
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, gently fold together crabmeat, scallions, parsley, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons bread crumbs and Old Bay, taking care not to break up any crab lumps. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Carefully fold in egg using a rubber spatula. If cakes don’t bind, add additional bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time, until they do.
Divide mixture into four portions. Shape each into a fat, round cake, about 3 inches across and 1 1/2 inches thick. Place on prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare tartar sauce by combining all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Stir again before serving. Sauce can be refrigerated up to 1 week.
When ready to cook the crab cakes, place flour in a shallow baking dish or pie plate. Lightly dredge each cake in flour and return to baking sheet. Heat oil in a large (12-inch), nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Very carefully lay cakes in oil and cook until exteriors are crisp and browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.
Source: The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook