My father grew up in Baltimore and he tells us that as a child he would crab the Chesapeake by dangling his toes in the water waiting for a nibble and scooping up crabs with a net. My earliest memories of him involve crabbing off of a rickety (my mother's adjective for the spot) pier in Port Aransas, Texas, tying chicken necks to strings and sitting, waiting for that good tug on the line. If we went out with one of his friends on a canoe or small boat for a few hours, we'd come back with laundry baskets brimming with live crabs. We'd take them home and he would cook them in huge pots with beer and Old Bay seasoning. Finally, when we were all sitting around a picnic table covered in newspaper, wooden mallets and small cups of melted butter, our mouths watering, I would watch my father meticulously clean at least a dozen crabs- placing all of the cleaned meat in a small pile- before he would start to eat. OCD? Perhaps. I never emulated that strange and wonderful skill (I was far too impatient), but I did inherit his love of crabmeat. This is a not-so messy way to enjoy the goodness of crab. The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated, a periodical and a website which I strongly recommend based on its use of a test kitchen. These crabcakes are made with ingredients which enhance the flavor of the crab without adding much filler.
1 pound lump crabmeat, meticulously cleaned
4 medium scallions, green part only, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning (or more, to taste)
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs or cracker crumbs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 large egg
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cups vegetable oil
Gently mix crabmeat, scallions, herb, Old Bay, bread crumbs, and mayonnaise in medium bowl, being careful not to break up crab lumps. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Carefully fold in egg with rubber spatula until mixture just clings together.
2. Divide crab mixture into four or five portions and shape each into a fat, round cake, about 3 inches across and 1 1/2-inches high. Arrange on baking sheet lined with waxed paper; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. (Can refrigerate up to 24 hours.)
3. Put flour on plate. Lightly dredge crab cakes. Heat oil in large, preferably nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Gently lay chilled crab cakes in skillet; pan-fry until outsides are crisp and browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve hot.
I made a super-easy chipotle dipping sauce. It can be spicy or mild, depending on the ratio of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to mayo. Start by putting 1 cup of mayo in a food processor and add one chipotle pepper and one teaspoon of the adobo sauce. Blend and then taste. If it's not spicy enough, just do the same steps again until it is as hot as you want it.
Well, as it happened, that rickety little pier did collapse, and we were on it at the time. We managed to escape unharmed. It was one of those inexplicable times when your mother ends up being right. That evening, we headed home with the story of the adventure and, of course, a few dozen crab...and the eggs.