Crab Cakes

All winter long it’s Dungeness crab season here in the Pacific Northwest. Dungeness crabs tend to weigh in between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 pounds, and have perfect meat for making crab cakes. These crab cakes are a step-up riff off a recipe I found years ago in Ruth Reichl’s Comfort Me with Apples. The difficult thing with crab cakes is that they don’t hold together that well when forming them, and they can easily fall apart when frying them. The trick is to handle them delicately to begin with, and then chill them on a breadcrumb-lined pan for at least an hour before cooking them. Just that time in the fridge will go a long way in helping them stay together as they cook. There isn’t a lot of binder in this recipe, so it needs the chilling time.

  • Prep: 30 minutes
  • Cook: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 12 crab cakes.

We started with two 2 lb Dungeness crabs, which were then cleaned and cracked, resulting in about 1 1/4 pounds of lump crab meat.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lump crabmeat, picked through and any bits of shell removed (try not to break up the lumps of crabmeat as you pick through it)
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter (divided, 1 Tbsp and 3 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp prepared tartar sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • About 4 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces, yielding 2 cups
  • 2/3 cup fresh bread crumbs

Method

1 Heat one tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallots and a half teaspoon of salt. Cook until the shallots are translucent, a couple minutes. Do not brown. Let the shallots cool.

2 Whisk together the eggs, Worcestershire sauce, remaining half teaspoon of salt, paprika, freshly ground black pepper, tartar sauce, lemon zest, Tabasco, parsley, and the cooked shallots. Gently fold in the crabmeat and torn bread, taking care again to not break up the lumps of crab meat. The mixture will be very wet. Using your (clean) hands, take a scoop of the crab mixture and gently form it into a patty form about 2 1/4 inches across and 3/4 inches thick. Continue until you've made 12 crab cake patties. Line a rimmed tray with a piece of wax paper just large enough to hold the cakes and sprinkle the bottom of the tray with half of the bread crumbs. Set the crab cakes in one layer on the top of the layer of bread crumbs and sprinkle them with the remaining bread crumbs. Cover the crab cakes loosely with another sheet of wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

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3 Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large non-stick skillet on medium high heat. The butter will melt and foam up. When the foam subsides, working in batches, place the crab cakes in the pan (do not crowd the pan), and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side.

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