There are many markets in the Berkshires where you can purchase premade crab cakes with names like Louisiana Style, Maryland Style and some combination crab and shrimp, or crab and lobster cakes. These commercially-made cakes are uniformly shaped to resemble large hamburger patties and often are filled with so much “binder” (breadcrumbs) that they look more like patties made from leftover Thanksgiving stuffing rather than bursting with crab.
Homemade crab cakes make an elegant meal to serve guests and are easy to make with the help of canned crab meat. Don’t be surprised by the price of the crab – a one pound can generally costs about $20. Many markets stock several types (e.g. white crab meat from the body of the crab, lump crabmeat from the sides of the crab, or crab claw meat) and depending on which one you select the price can vary a bit.
Some markets stock small cans of crabmeat near the canned tuna but I prefer the large one pound cans that are usually available in the refrigerated section near the smoked salmon. Store the canned crab in your refrigerator.
1 pound lump crab meat
1/3 cup each diced onions and bell pepper
2/3 cup panko
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
Extra virgin olive oil (for sautéing)
Your choice of tartar sauce, aioli, and/or lemon wedges, for serving
To make cleanup easier, I use the same frying pan for sautéing the onions and peppers and then for cooking the crab cakes. Choose the size of the frying pan based on the size crab cakes you want to make.
In a frying pan sauté the onion and peppers in a little olive oil until soft and lightly browned. You can use either green bell peppers or red/yellow/orange peppers. The less mature green bell peppers will give you a fresh flavor and the colored peppers will give you a sweeter milder flavor. Red bell peppers are the sweetest. Choose your favorite or a combination of both. Set aside.
In a large bowl, pick through the crab meat to be certain that there aren’t any stray pieces of crab shell or cartilage in with the meat.
In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, Old Bay Seasoning and pepper and mix well.
Add the panko, sautéed onions and peppers to the large bowl containing the crab meat and mix so the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the egg mixture and gently stir to combine.
At this point you can choose to make four large (5-inch) crab cakes using a 1-cup metal measuring cup, or make eight (3-inch) appetizer size crab cakes using a ½ -cup metal measuring cup.
Heat a little olive oil in the frying pan and scoop the crab cake mixture into a measuring cup, gently compressing the mixture. Place the crab cake mixture in the frying pan and lightly flatten/compress it with the back of a spoon, tucking in any rough edges. Continue positioning the crab cakes in the pan. I can generally make two large or four small crab cakes at a time.
Sauté the crab cakes for about 4 minutes on each side until lightly browned, gently flipping them with a metal spatula.
Top the crab cakes with a little tartar sauce or aioli and offer lemon wedges on the side.
Yield: 8 appetizer or 4 large dinner size crab cakes