I just spent the day with the awesomely funny and talented Tom Douglas, the James Beard Award–winning restaurateur/chef/author/gastropreneur whose eponymous line of sauces, rubs, and seasonings are everywhere . . . . These days he is on the road pushing his new cookbook, I Love Crabcakes. And who doesn’t, really? It’s just that I can’t think of a single food or recipe archetype that has more bad versions being cooked in restaurants around the country than good ones. Not fair, not mediocre, but really, really BAD!
The culprits? Unimaginative chefs who feel the need to put a crab cake or a Caesar salad on every menu they write and then compound matters by using second-rate ingredients. Furthermore, the more stuff you do to crab cakes the worse off they are. And the ne'er-do-well pros are far worse than any home cooks I know when it comes to adding unnecessary ingredients that don’t work to dishes that they have no business cooking in the first place.
My favorite crab cakes came to my recipe box via my good friend Carol Mack. Her recipe will soon be in our recipe file on mspmag.com, and I have included it for posting below. Some of Tom’s recipes are also included. Head on down to your nearest Lunds or Byerly's—or to Coastal Seafoods—and grab some of the best crab meat you can lay your hands on. I prefer domestic jumbo lump blue crabmeat from the Mid-Atlantic states to all other crabmeats, but the imported blue swimmer meat from India and Malaysia is very good.
And for the record, my fave restaurant cakes in town are to be found at:
McCormick and Schmick’s
In that order.
And P.S.: Tom will be cooking his latkes with crab on the Fox 9 Morning News with me on Monday morning. Check it out!
Carol Mack’s Crab Cakes
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 large egg
1 T. brown mustard
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
a dash of tabasco
1 lb. jumbo lump crab meat
Whisk together mayo, egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and tabasco. Put crab meat in a large bowl. Crush crackers coarsely over crab meat. Pour mayo mixture over crab meat and gently fold ingredients together. Chill crab meat mixture for 1 hour. Form into 8 packed mounds. Preheat a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat for several minutes and then add 2 T. vegetable oil. Sauté cakes in oil until browned and crisped on both sides and heated all the way through. Serves 4 for an entrée, 6-8 for an appetizer.
Tom Douglas Recipes
Tom says, "OK, OK, I know crab isn’t kosher, but in my opinion, adding a little crab meat to a batch of crusty, golden potato latkes makes for a glorious brunch."
1-1/2 lbs. large Yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled
1 small onion, peeled (about 6 oz.)
3/4 lb. crab meat, drained, picked clean of shell, and lightly squeezed if wet
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 T. plus 2 t. dried bread crumbs
1-1/2 t. kosher salt
3/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
peanut or canola oil for frying
Lemon Dill Cream (see below)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Grate potatoes and onion using a box grater or the medium grating blade of a food processor. Lay a large piece of cheesecloth or a clean dish cloth in a large bowl and pour in the potato-onion mixture. Gather up the edges of the cloth, forcing the grated vegetables into a tight bundle, and wring out as much liquid as you can, discarding the liquid.
Shake the potato onion mixture into a large bowl. Stir in crab meat, eggs, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper, mixing well. Using a 1/2-cup measuring cup, scoop up a portion of the batter and pat it between your hands into a pancake shape, 1/2-inch thick and 3 to 4 inches wide. Continue until all the latkes are shaped, placing them on a plate.
Place two large nonstick or cast iron skillets over medium-high heat and pour in enough oil to coat the bottoms of the pans (about 1/8 inch oil). When pans are hot, start adding as many latkes as will comfortably fit into each pan. (To protect your hands from the hot oil, you can slip the latkes into the pan using a large spoon.) Fry until golden, turning with a spatula to brown both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Turn the heat down to medium as needed so the latkes don’t burn before they’ve cooked through. Transfer the latkes to a paper towel–lined baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven as you continue to fry any remaining latkes, wiping out any burned bits of debris from the pan and adding more oil as needed. You should get about 10 latkes (4 servings).
When all the latkes are fried, transfer them to plates and serve with the Lemon Dill Cream.
Lemon Dill Cream
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. fresh dill, finely chopped
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. grated lemon zest
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine sour cream, dill, and lemon juice and zest in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.