Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Please, whatever you do, don’t mess with my crab cakes!
Authentic Maryland Crab Cakes are like gold in my home! I am so spoiled from growing up on the East Coast. Baltimore, Maryland “Bawlmor” or “Crab Town” to be exact, and eating some of the best crab cakes in the world, but because of it, I’m now a crab cake snob, I guess you could say.
Where do most go wrong with their crab cakes, you ask? Fillers, over blending and too many ingredients. The process of making crab cakes is simple really and the ingredients very little. Tossing the ingredients with gentle hands is important to keep the lumps in tact. The ‘only’ filler in my crab cakes are saltine crackers, I would never blend crab in a blender and if you’re trying to get fancy with the ingredients, you’re trying too hard. No mango please. I’m telling all the chefs out there in the world, the simpler the better!
I grew up on crabs steamed with rock salt, vinegar and Old Bay Seasoning, crab soup, crab cakes, soft shell crab sandwiches on white bread, fresh ice cold Chincoteague oysters from the off the Eastern shore being shucked down in the basement with Dad, oysters Rockefeller, you name it - my parents made every variety of crab and oyster recipes around! My taste buds will forever crave them and the experiences that go along with each sitting.
I grew up going to Ocean City, Maryland for the summers as my parents had a place at the ocean aptly named ‘Lazy Days’. Crab was just a given when we were down there with friends, so one day would be devoted to picking crab and the next day all the adults would make crab soup with any crab we didn’t devour from the day before (That recipe will come later in one of my posts). Hot crispy bread for dipping in the simmering broth after a day of swimming and getting tossed around in the waves. We always went to bed, with sun kissed skin and warm bellies. Such wonderful memories.
Later in life, our family moved first to Texas then to California. Craving our crab we soon found out that you could overnight crab from Obrycki’s or other famous crab houses and our new traditions of Fourth of July Crab Feasts began and Christmas morning crab cake benedicts. For several years, my family would make crab cakes and deliver them with our wagon on Christmas Eve to our neighbors with a stack of saltine crackers on paper plates wrapped in cellophane and a big red bow, hoping they too would enjoy a special Christmas morning breakfast or snack later in the day.
Our King crab lovers and Dungeness crab lovers have had difficulty wrapping their heads around the time and effort it takes to eat a Maryland blue crab. I’ve done my job for years defending the work involved in picking crab and now I just sit back and let my kids fill them in. This is normally how the dialogue goes. “It’s an experience! It’s an all day event! We sit around and talk for hours as we pick the crab meat out and its so much sweeter than the crab you eat! They come steamed with Old Bay Seasoning, then we eat some sides like Cole slaw, watermelon, salad and something sweet”.
After we have gotten them to ‘buy in’ on our experience we sit them at the newspaper lined table with a mallet in hand, other utensils for picking within arms reach and start instructing them on how to enjoy our sweet crab one bite at a time. A couple of hours go by and they’ve got the hang of it and are enjoying in the experience that we are so fond of and have cherished over the years. This is one of the traditions in my family I hold so dear to my heart. I enjoy carrying on the tradition for them and hope they will do the same with their own families one day. I have been blessed with parents who too felt the importance of tradition. It was so important to them that they made each of us our own book of family seafood recipes. I can’t wait to share these with you!
I now live in Northern California and we’ve come to embrace sharing in meals over a hot fire down by the ocean with our wonderful friends. Bringing the cast iron skillet and cooking over a hot flame has been so much fun and just adds to the entire experience with hearing the waves crashing, birds calling and enjoying a beautiful sunset while downing a piping hot crab cake. I’ll admit, it sure helps having some muscles to carry it all down, but once we’re set up it’s absolute heaven on earth. Taking advantage of the incredible area we live in is important and easily overlooked at times in our busy lives, so it takes effort to say, "Yes let’s do dinner at the beach tonight". But after doing so, it feels as if we’ve been transformed somewhere very far away and all of our troubles just seemed to have melted away for a little while.