I don’t care what anybody says: homemade crab cakes are the best.
What is it about a crab cake that’s such a soul-satisfying experience? They are so heartwarming and delicious.
It’s absolutely essential to start with fresh crab.
Expert recommendation: I have a fantastic fishery in Chicago called Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop and it’s amazing. People always ask me, “Why is the fish you make so much better than my fish?” and the answer is always the same: I get it at Dirk’s. I love to shop there because the fish is so fresh and wonderful.
Many larger stores end up with more fish than they need so it simply isn’t as fresh. Dirk gets in small fresh batches daily and you can tell by the taste and quality.
Expert tip: the key is to order fresh crab and not pasteurized.
I order it in advance so it arrives fresh the day I want to make it.
There are so many different types of crab from so many different places but the most important thing is to get what’s fresh at the time you’re making it.
I was fortunate to get lump crab from Carolina.
What I like about it is that it’s really firm and less watery, so it holds together nicely for frying. I like to make the mixture a day ahead (along with the tartar sauce) and place it on foil in a long dish. I sprinkle a bit cornmeal on the top and bottom of each crab cake to help it with its shape.
You can do this ahead of time so that all you need to do is sauté them. I’ve had many crab cakes from many lovely restaurants, but nothing compares to my tattered 1994 Gourmet magazine recipe for crab cakes (with a tartar sauce that’s to die for). It’s the best.
Heavenly Crab Cakes Recipe
1/2 a stick of unsalted butter melted cooled
4 eggs, beaten lightly
6 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup minced flat parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 a teaspoon salt (author advice: I like more!)
1/4 of a teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 lbs of lump crabmeat picked through by hand twice
2 cups fine fresh breadcrumbs (gluten free if you need to is fine)
1/3 of a cup cornmeal or more
1/2 a cup vegetable oil
Gently mix all the ingredients up until the crab, then gently stir in crab meat and bread crumbs. Form crab cakes, whatever size you like. For appetizers I like to form them a little less than half a cup. Form into cakes, place on a baking sheet sprinkled with some of the cornmeal, and then sprinkle more on top of each.
I tend to do small ones and layer them with plastic wrap in between. Heat the skillet until the oil is hot but not smoking and sautée the crab cakes in batches being careful not to crowd the pan, about three minutes or so or until golden. Be careful when you flip them. I tend to serve as an appetizer, putting them in the pan as guests arrive and serving hot as people mingle.
Expert tip: for better crab cakes, serve with Tarragon Tartar Sauce. Below is the original recipe first featured in Gourmet magazine circa 1994
Tarragon Tarter Sauce Recipe
Three minced shallots
18 pitted green olives
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh tarragon
Then add one and half cup high quality mayo
Finish with 1 T cider vinegar and a shot of Tabasco