We are squarely in the height of Dungeness Crab season, and it would be a crying shame not to take full advantage of that beautiful bounty. While many people prefer to dine straight from the shell, I do not possess the patience for that endeavor, and so I buy shelled crab and make Crab Cakes. This recipe makes about one dozen, and in my experience four adults easily polished them off. However, I eat like a horse and so do my friends, so this may not be a completely accurate assessment of portions. Tons of crab, and just enough other ingredients to bind it all together and provide some color and texture. To top it all off, there’s a tartar sauce that is vibrant with lemon, briny with caper juice, and chocked full of fresh dill to round it all off. Makes me think about a day at the beach…
If you are a brave soul and prefer to crack your own crab, that will need to be accomplished first. From there on out it’s as easy as you get. Get that crab in a bowl and gently toss in some thinly sliced green onion, diced roasted red peppers for color and richness, and diced capers, lemon juice and zest for some pizazz. Don’t forget that crab does not like to be messed around with so the less stirring and tossing the better. After tossing we’ll need to bind everything together, so I use a blend of mayonnaise and sour cream, then an egg to cinch that deal. Then, all that needs to be done is to stir in some panko bread crumbs. That is the super crispy kind and believe me, it works like a charm compared to using fresh bread crumbs. I tried both as an experiment, and the cakes made with the fresh bread crumbs didn’t want to firm up, and sort of exploded upon flipping over. This is not a deal killer in terms of flavor, but it pretty much wrecks your aspirations of a nice presentation.
One more trick: let your crab cakes set up in the refrigerator for at least half an hour or more (I’ve done it overnight a time or two). That panko needs an opportunity to soak all the liquid in the mixture so it can hold up against a frying pan. When the time has come, get your pan hot using medium high heat and some oil to prevent sticking. If you have a stick free pan, this is the time to haul it out. Fry until nice and crispy on one side, and flip them over. The whole cooking exercise is usually less than 10 minutes (probably more like 7 if we’re getting picky about it). They will feel noticeably more firm to the touch when they’re ready.
And now you have crab cakes! I like them with a little arugula underneath to catch the juices, but rice is also really good as well as a hundred other things. More ideas on the recipe below, but all that’s left is whipping up a tartar sauce if you happen to be in the mood…
This one is lemony and briny, with a good punch of fresh dill.
So there you have it – crab cakes that are mostly crab, and that’s just the way it should be here in the Pacific Northwest. Hope you enjoy, and thanks so much for reading today!! xoxox
- FOR THE CRAB CAKES
- 1-pound Dungeness Crab meat
- 2 roasted red peppers, seeded and finely chopped
- ½ cup green onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup capers, finely chopped
- 1 egg
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup low-fat or full-fat sour cream
- ½-3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- FOR THE TARTAR SAUCE
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour low-fat or full-fat sour cream
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped capers
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle
- ¼ cup thinly sliced green onion
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- ½ -1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ - 1 tablespoon brine from the jar of capers
- Salt and pepper to taste (start with about ½ teaspoon of salt)
- FOR THE CRAB CAKES
- Place crabmeat in a large bowl. Add red pepper, green onion, and capers. Mix lightly.
- In a separate small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, lemon juice, and low-fat sour cream, and egg.
- Stir lightly until just mixed.
- Add ½ cup panko breadcrumbs. Stir lightly until mixture comes together. Add additional panko if your mixture seems too loose to form a crab cake.
- To form the crab cakes:
- Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper.
- Using a ½ cup ice cream scoop (If you have one. If not, use a ½ cup-measuring cup.), portion out approximately 12 crab cakes on the cookie sheet. Press down lightly to form a flattened crab cake, about ¾ inch thick. Cover crab cakes lightly with plastic wrap and let set up in the refrigerator for at least half an hour, or until they feel firm to the touch.
- When ready to cook:
- Add about 2 teaspoons butter and 1-teaspoon olive oil to a nonstick skillet. Preheat skillet over medium heat until butter starts to bubble.
- Gently place as many crab cakes in the skillet as you can fit without crowding. Fry on one side for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown (yes, you can peek). When golden brown on one side, gently flip over and finish cooking until second side is brown.
- Serve immediately or cover and place in a warm oven until ready to serve. Try not to let them sit too long though – not much more than 15 minutes.
- FOR THE TARTAR SAUCE
- In a medium sized bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and sour cream.
- Stir in the capers, dill pickle, green onion, lemon zest, and fresh dill, salt and pepper.
- NOTE: Here’s where it gets interesting – you will want to rely on your own sense of taste to finish this sauce off. I like tartar sauce to be, well, tart. If you don’t, start slowly. Try ½ tablespoon lemon juice – now tastes it. OK? Then quit right where you are. I also really like the briny taste of caper brine. Feel daring? Add half a tablespoon. Taste again. OK? Then stop right there. It’s really a matter of trusting your own likes and sense of taste at this point, so go for what you want. Need more heat? Try some sriracha or other hot sauce. Play with it until it becomes YOUR sauce. Don’t forget to write down what you did at the end so you can repeat it any time you please.
- COOKS NOTES
- Especially during summer when corn is fresh, you might want to consider stirring in ½ cup or more of corn cut fresh from the cob. During winter months, frozen corn will work just fine.
- These are really good on their own, but a dollop of tarter sauce adds a nice creamy element.
- These can be served with just about anything, but you might think about: oven baked French fries, roasted purple potatoes, herbed rice, or get all out there and into the garden vibe and place a couple of crab cakes per serving on top of a plate full of mixed greens for a composed salad. A slice of nice bread or better yet, corn bread on the side and there you go.