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Making Crab Cakes, Texas-Style

Crab Cakes

by Sidney Carlisle

Crab Cake Recipes

The water of the Texas Gulf Coast is the home of one of the worlds most popular shellfish. If youre thinking shrimp, think again. Were talking crab, specifically blue crab, considered by many to be the finest eating crab in this country.

Although more than 90 different kind of crabs live in Texas waters, only the blue and stone crabs are harvested. Blues are the most popular, since the entire crab may be used. Fishermen may take one claw from a stone crab and are obligated to return the crab to the water, where it will grow another claw.

In heavy commercial crabbing areas the crabs are steamed and seasoned near the docks and pickers set to work immediately. The picking is highly specialized as some workers pick only claws, while others pick the entire crab. Crabmeat is available fresh in markets near the coast but consumers further inland usually must contend with either frozen or pasteurized meat. Although its shipped fresh, fishmongers and high-turnover grocery stores are the only markets able to sell the crabmeat in a timely manner.

How to Make Crab Cakes

Fresh or frozen, crabmeat is easy to prepare. Sold in one-pound containers, the meat must be picked over before its used and those who ignore this step will find unappetizing bits of shell and cartilage in their finished dish. For best results, empty the container out and gently pick through the meat, trying to leave the lumps intact. If pasteurized crabmeat is being used, rinse it carefully and pat dry with paper toweling before picking it over. Once the meat is cleaned it is ready to add to any number of seafood dishes.

Crab cakes are a great way to use crabmeat. The cakes are easy to make and almost everyone likes them. Recipes vary around the country but are all geared toward holding the meat together with the least amount of extra ingredients. A mayonnaise or white sauce base is used with crackers or bread crumbs to bind the mixture together. Add anything else from cream to cayenne pepper, throw in onion or parsley and add a dash of Old Bay seasoning to complete the recipe. The cakes are easily adaptable to anyones taste, and ingredients that dont suit the cook may be omitted entirely.

There are a few tricks that will help produce perfectly cooked, golden brown crab cakes. To begin with, mix gently. The idea is to keep the crabmeat as lumpy as possible while sticking the mixture together so it will hold up during the cooking process. Place the cleaned crabmeat in a mixing bowl. Mix together all the ingredients except the crackers or crumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs over the meat, add the mixed ingredients on top, and stir carefully to blend into the crabmeat.

Divide the mixture into even portions and shape gently into a flat patty. The cakes will be easier to shape if kept fairly small, three inches or less in diameter. The cakes may be cooked immediately or refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for about an hour.

There are many ways to cook crab cakes including pan frying and deep frying. And while they may also be grilled or broiled, pan frying is simple and uses a minimal amount of fat. A cast iron or heavy saut pan works well and just two tablespoons of vegetable oil mixed with two tablespoons of butter should be ample for a one-pound recipe of crab cakes. Pan fry the patties until they are golden brown on both sides and serve immediately with cocktail or tartar sauce, or in a pinch, ketchup.

Crab Cake Recipes

One pound of crabmeat will yield eight nicely sized crab cakes, enough to serve four people. The following recipes are easy and a perfect way to use crabmeat from the Gulf Coast.

Texas Crab Cakes

  • 1 pound lump crabmeat
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Pick over the crabmeat carefully, discarding any bits of shell. Place the crabmeat in a mixing bowl and set aside. Saut the onion and celery in 2 teaspoons butter until tender, but not brown. Cool the vegetables to room temperature. Combine the onion, celery, mayonnaise, parsley and egg in a bowl, stirring until smooth.

Sprinkle the panko over the crabmeat. Pour the onion mixture over the crumbs and stir gently to combine. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Shape into 8 small cakes and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate one hour.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the vegetable oil in a saut pan. Pan fry the crab cakes until golden brown on both sides.

Seasoned Crab Cakes

  • 1 pound lump crabmeat
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Pick over the crabmeat carefully, discarding any bits of shell, and set it aside. Combine the mayonnaise, chives, Old Bay, mustard, bread crumbs, lemon juice and egg. Fold into the crabmeat, adding a bit more mayonnaise if needed to hold the patties together. Shape into 8 patties.

Heat the butter until very hot and pan fry on both sides until golden brown.

Basic Crab Cakes

  • 1 pound lump crabmeat
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Add any of the following that suits your taste:

  • 1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 cup minced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup minced celery

Pick over the crabmeat carefully, discarding any bits of shell. Place the crabmeat in a bowl and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Combine the egg, mayonnaise, mustard and parsley in a separate bowl, and salt and pepper lightly. Add as many of the additional ingredients as desired. Add to the bowl with the crabmeat, folding gently to combine. If necessary, correct the consistency of the mixture with either a bit more mayonnaise or a teaspoon or two of bread crumbs.

Shape into 8 patties and pan or deep fry as desired.

Sidney Carlisle, a writer for TexasCooking.com, lives on a ranch in Meridian, Texas.

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