Being from the Maryland/D.C. area, I know my crab cakes. Many places try and claim the best crab cakes around, however, I often find that they are poor excuses for crab cakes. Crab cakes that contain too much filler are hardly crab cakes, and those that are overly spicy or filled with lots of “stuff” aren’t worthy. The key to the best crab cakes is three things: old bay, crispy outside/soft inside and lots of lump crab meat.
I’ve honestly never really taken a stab at making my own before, however, I was craving crabs up here in Manhattan. Rather that trust some Maryland poser restaurant, I decided to take matters into my own hands. A pound of lump crab meat, old bay, a little panko, lots of bay and jalepeno (no seeds!), fresh lemon, and you have yourself a crab cake. Typically they are served with a tatar sauce and/or cole slaw, but I opted for a light, refreshing salsa that would mix well and not overpower the crab. For this I needed tomatillio’s and corn. Each are easy to make and would make a great appetizer if you made the crab cakes as mini cakes.
Maryland Crab Cakes:
Makes 6 large cakes, many small cakes as appetizer
1 pound lump crab meat, picked over for any possible shells
1/4 cup mayo (ideally homemade)
1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 1/2 tablespoons old bay seasoning
juice of 1/4 lemon (~1 tablespoon), use remaining lemon to garnish crab cakes
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
1 cup Japanese panko bread crumbs (2/3 cup and 1/3 cup separated)
fresh ground black pepper
vegetable oil for frying
In a medium bowl, combine mayo, egg and beat lightly. Add mustard, old bay, lemon juice and jalapeno. Mix to combine. Add crab and blend and then add 2/3 cups panko, large pinch of salt and a pinch (or few turns on pepper mill) of pepper. Mix again to combine, cover and refrigerate about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat about 2 tablespoons or vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Pour remaining panko onto a large plate.
When crab mixture is set, remove from refrigerator and form 6 patties, about 1.5″ thick. Coat patty in panko and place in pan to fry. Do not crowd pan, so work in batches if necessary. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.
Serve with tomatillio salsa (recipe follows) and lemon wedge atop a bed of arugula (or however you prefer). Pretend you are on the Chesapeake bay shore and enjoy!
Tomatillio and Corn Salsa
Loosely based on recipe from NPR
2 ears of sweet corn, removed from husk and each cut into 4 equal pieces
6 to 8 small tomatillos (about 2 cups, chopped)
1 green or red jalapeno (or to taste; the more seeds, the hotter the dish)
1 small white onion (about 3/4 cup, chopped)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons lime juice
Preheat oven to 375 and place rack in bottom third of oven. Line a baking sheet with foil. Add the corn cob quarters, chopped tomatillos, whole jalapeno and chopped onions in the center of the foil. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss until well coated. Turn edges of the foil up to create a ledge around the vegetables to collect the cooking juices.
Roast until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Heat broiler and continue to cook under broiler, about 5 minutes, until a nice char forms.
Cut the corn kernels off the cob and reserve half. Cut off the top of the jalapeno pepper and peel off the skin and remove seeds (for hotter sauce, include seeds). Transfer the charred vegetables (with only half the corn) and any juices to a food processor or blender; add cilantro and lime juice. Blend to a coarse puree. Place in a bowl, and stir in remaining corn kernels. Season with salt, to taste.