From The Galley: New England Style Crab Cakes - The Fisherman

From The Galley: New England Style Crab Cakes

The finished product of some worthwhile effort—a golden brown crab cake.

A blend of seasoning and spices mixed with crab cake essentials.

Every season here in the Northeast has its spoils. The late summer is a special time unto itself. This season offers the sweetest sweet corn of the year, lush stone fruits, crisp early apples, and fruits of the sea like sea bass, fluke or one of my personal favorites, blue claw crabs.  Blue crabs are delectable and are incredibly versatile in the number of ways they can be prepared in the kitchen.

One important thing about blue crabs, regardless of how you procure them is the way you care for them prior to preparation. Keeping your crabs cool, alive and happy not only keeps harmful bacteria from forming, in any dead crabs, but also keeps their meat fresh and firm. Putting crabs in a cooler is really only one step in the process of maintaining a fresh and food-safe catch.  I always like to separate my crabs from whatever source of ice I’m using be it cube ice, packs, or frozen water bottles with the help of a rag or towel; minimizing the possibility of any of the crabs drowning the meltwater.

The other aspect of maintaining your catch is fresh air.  It can be easy to forget to keep the lid slightly ajar on whatever vessel you’re storing them in.  Crabs can survive just fine out of water in a cool environment, but cut off their source of air and it doesn’t take long for them to suffocate—ruining your hard-earned catch. I address this issue by using a smaller rag to prop open the lid of my cooler and keeping a small brick under one end to tilt the cooler allowing any accumulated water to escape through the drain plug.  Using this method, I’ve kept crabs alive and calm for two to three days at a time until I was ready to prepare them.

When you’re ready to cook your catch, you have the choice of boiling or steaming and your preference is all your own.  If you aren’t consuming them right away, you also have your choice of ways to pick and clean them.  In my experience, no matter how you do it, picking the tasty meat is a tedious and time-consuming process but the payoff is well-worth the effort.

Once you have completed the cleaning process, there are nearly endless ways to put your lump crab meat to work in the kitchen.  I’ve really come to enjoy one crabcake recipe in particular. After trying dozens of them over the years I’ve settled on this one in particular. The beauty of this recipe lies in its simplicity. There’s no need to get fancy with shallots, diced peppers, corn or fancy remoulades that ultimately just detract from the sweet succulent crab meat.

What I will say about this recipe is that as simple as it is, the details matter. I follow the recipe exactly and use a 1/3 measuring cup to pack my cakes very lightly before flipping them into the hot oil.  I use tongs to give them one (and only one) flip before turning them out onto a baking rack to cool so they stay crispy on all sides.  I’ve shared this recipe with friends and so far, all have agreed—this produces the best crabcakes they’ve ever made. Give this one a shot and I’m guessing there’s a good chance you’ll agree.

This time of the year sees a big influx of blue crabs in back bays and estuaries.


½ cup mayonnaise

1 large egg beaten

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon hot sauce

1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked clean

20 saltine crackers, finely crushed

¼ cup frying oil

Lemon wedges for serving


Step 1

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, egg, Worcestershire, hot sauce and mustard.


Step 2

Toss the cracker crumbs with the lump crab meat.


Step 3

Gently fold in the whisked egg/mayo mix with the crab meat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.


Step 4

Heat the oil until it shimmers.  Take a 1/3 measuring cup and very gently pack in the crab meat, taking care not to pack too tightly.  You want your cakes to be about 1-1/2 inches in depth.  Add them to the oil and flip once with tongs. You want them to be a beautiful golden brown on each side.  Serve with lemon wedges.



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