I am not the kind of lady to drop half a paycheck on a new purse. I am not the kind of lady to get my nails done or to give into the coveted designer shoes - however much I might ogle them. But, I am the kind of lady that will spontaneously treat myself to a pound of fresh, locally caught crab at the farmer’s market for a casual Sunday afternoon feast. These are the things we do, not because we have to, but because life is so much more fun with a few treats sprinkled in.
I had found this recipe several weeks ago and it was lurking ever so subtly in the forefront of my mind when I strolled past the crab stand at my local farmer’s market one cool, Saturday morning.
They were calling to me and I will always answer the call of good food.
I secured the overflowing pound of tender claw meat in my straw bag, gave Mr. Pedantic a call (because I could not stand to keep such exciting news all to myself), and began dreaming of the following day's lunch.
As we drove home from church that Sunday afternoon I could hardly wait to begin preparations. I had been anticipating my lunch for nearly twenty-four hours and the cravings were almost too much to bear at that point.
I smashed a pile of saltine crackers with gusto, whisked together an egg with some mayonnaise, Worcestershire, and mustard, and tucked the bowl into the refrigerator for an agonizing (almost) hour.
Crab cakes require only some tender coaxing to be shaped and then they are slipped into a pan of hot oil where the exteriors can become crisp and buttery while the inside remains tender.
Less is definitely more here. If you overwork the crab mixture more than necessary, you will lose those beautiful lumps.
I would like to tell you that I showed great restraint and did not eat three of these lovely cakes throughout the course of that day, but I have never lied to you and I know that you will understand why I really could not help myself.
These truly were the best crab cakes I had ever had. Lightly seasoned with barely enough binder to hold all of that beautiful, sweet meat together. They are perfect.
The following evening, I made them again, but this time with a deliciously rich Old Bay hollandaise. If you do not know, Old Bay is basically the pixie dust of southern cooking.
Oh, you think hollandaise sounds like too much work? I hear you, and I know you are hungry, but we have to spend that horrible hour of waiting some way and this is really a very good way. Trust me.
The combination of the creamy, buttery hollandaise with the signature taste of spicy old bay compliments the crab cakes without overwhelming them.
The crab cakes are warm and the edges are crispy, the hollandaise is rich and spicy, and a squeeze of lemon completes the bite.
In my mind, this is the perfect weekend meal. It is nearly effortless but it still feels indulgent.
Serve them up with a heaping pile of this corn and maybe a salad and you have yourself a pretty fantastic dinner.
I think we just answered the "what do I cook for Memorial Day?" question.
Oh, those crispy edges do wonderful things to my heart.
Crab Cakes with Old Bay Hollandaise
makes four crab cakes / serves 2-4
Cook’s Note: The crab cake recipe can easily be multiplied to feed a crowd. While I would not recommend making the hollandaise in larger batches, one batch will easily stretch over eight crab cakes.
for the crab cakes
1/2 lb freshly picked crab claw meat
10 saltine crackers, finely crushed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 egg (not large)
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
vegetable oil, for frying
lemon wedges, for serving
Cook’s Note: I chose to use claw meat because I love that extra hint of sweetness, but you could easily use lump instead. Do note that claw meat is on the darker side in color, which is why some steer away. I, however, think that a bit extra color is worth putting up with when it brings with it that lovely hint of sweetness.
In a medium mixing bowl, gently combine the crab meat and saltine crackers.
In a separate bowl, whisk mayonnaise, egg, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour this over the crab mixture and combine using a spatula.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour - or close to it. While the mixture is chilling, prepare the hollandaise.
Divide the chilled mixture evenly to form four, equal crab cakes. Shape them gently using the palms of your hands. They should be no more than 1-inch in thickness.
In a large, non-stick frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Once the oil is glimmering, place the crab cakes in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the outside is crisp and deep golden.
Remove from heat and serve immediately with lemon wedges and warm hollandaise. Enjoy!
for the hollandaise
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
several teaspoons hot water, standing by
Fill a wide, 3-quart saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Find a heat-safe mixing bowl that will sit comfortably atop the pan without touching the water.
In that bowl, whisk together egg yolks and lemon juice until they have become thick and airy, and have slightly lightened in color - this will take about 3 minutes. Place the bowl over the simmering water and continue to whisk constantly until the eggs have just started to become warm; about 1 minute.
Slowly ladle in the melted butter, a little at a time, while continuing to whisk. Once all the butter has been incorporated, continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture has become noticeably thick and has doubled in volume. Remove the bowl from the pan, and the pan from the heat, and stir the Old Bay and salt into the hollandaise.
If your crab cakes are ready, you can serve the hollandaise immediately. However, if you have made this before cooking them, you can warm it up with a few teaspoons of hot water just before drizzling.
Crab cake recipe adapted from Andrew Zimmerman. Hollandaise recipe adapted from Tyler Florence.