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Notable Nosh: Crab cakes

Nosh - Crabcake

For most of my life, I have always been a little ambivalent when it comes to either fishcakes or crab cakes. Mostly, my disinterest stems from the fact that I find fish, and especially shellfish, to lose its richer tastes and sweetness when it is chopped or minced to finely before cooking. In the Northeastern US, they take their crab cakes very seriously and I have recently seen quite a few television cooking shows discussing the various types in loving and graphic detail. Many looked really good and I decided that maybe I should give the dish another try.

I recently sampled the ones you see pictured above at Vineyards Restaurant in Ottawa and, while I wasn’t exactly blown away by the experience, I did find them better than I expected.

The menu described the cakes as being herbed, but, while I could see green flecks in the center, I couldn’t actually pin-point any particular flavor other than, perhaps, parsley. The Garlic-Lemon Aioli that came on the side was actually quite tasty but it was bit too robust for the dish and tended to mask the delicate taste of the cakes. Just plain lemon juice might have been better. As for the cakes themselves, while somewhat tasty, the meat was ground much too finely which not only gave them a rather textureless, paste-like consistency, it also robbed them, as I have often found, of the natural sweetness. Many of the ones I saw on the aforementioned cooking shoes used much chunkier pieces of crab and I am sure this is the way to go…

Anyway, I should like to try making these myself sometime but before that I would be very interested to hear from my readers as to what particular qualities and techniques they think are essential for a top-quality crab cake…

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. We enjoy crab cakes when visiting the southeast coast. Charleston, South Carolina has many excellent versions like the 82 Queen Restaurant who’s menu today describes them with smoked bacon, arugula and Orange & Basil Beurre Blanc ?? I have not eaten at that particular restaurant in awhile but it has been there for over 20 years… I am not a trained chef, but sometimes I do attempt to make crab cakes. I have confidence you will find a tasty version! Good Luck! Lemon, herbs…how hard could it be? haha

    January 13, 2014
    • The smoked bacon is in the meat mix? That sounds interesting 🙂

      January 13, 2014
  2. I think the key thing is, like you say, chunky fish, not minced, but also minimal binder – definitely no bread or anything like that – just some egg and mayo maybe. Difficult to cook without them falling apart but much tastier

    January 13, 2014
  3. I use lump crabmeat at about 1/4 to 1/2 in cubes,crab boil seasoning,capers, red onion.

    January 13, 2014
    • The capers are different … I’ve not seen that before.

      January 13, 2014
  4. When I make crab cakes, I use jumbo lump crab. I mix all my other ingredients together first and then carefully mix in the crab so it doesn’t break apart. Hope that helps.

    January 13, 2014
  5. Though I’m no expert on crab cakes, these are my requirements: identifiable chunks of lump crab meat, a little something green like parsley or chopped green pepper, lemon juice and lemon pepper to season, egg or mayo as binder, and panko crumbs on the outside for crispness. Minimal handling is key.

    January 13, 2014
    • Minimal handling seems to be a common theme….

      January 13, 2014
  6. I really enjoy crab cakes! Your question is really good and has me wondering what I would say matters most. Taste, is the obvious answer, but that’s not what you’re going for! I read Karen’s thoughts and think that she really hits my favorite points. I do like fresh bread crumbs and if using lump crab I think everything else just pulls together for me. I live on the west coast of the U.S. (California) and had my first really excellent crab cakes on a beach in South Carolina. I can still taste them. Nothing has ever quite matched my memory!

    January 13, 2014
  7. I really liked this recipe from Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide because it is mainly crab and little else. Looking at it too seems to be mostly crab. Karen, from Back Road Journal is an accomplished cook and has beautiful recipes so I’m sure her’s would be delicious too.

    January 15, 2014
    • Rufus’ and Karen’s both look good. I’ve got some good inspiration to play around with now 🙂

      January 15, 2014
  8. Keith #

    Crab cakes are big around here (near Baltimore, MD), and I agree with you completely regarding mincing seafood. The best crabcakes, in my opinion, consist of a pile of lump crab meat with a little egg and bread crumb to (barely) hold it together, and are broiled, not fried.

    Salmon cakes are what I do with leftovers the day after a meal of hot-smoked salmon.

    January 16, 2014
    • Broiled sounds interesting … athough I guess they must be hard to keep from falling apart if you are not careful.

      January 16, 2014
      • Keith #

        I haven’t found it to be a big problem when I make them, but for me at least, falling apart isn’t a big concern anyway. They don’t need to be flipped during cooking, and once they hit my plate I’m going to be tearing them apart with a fork anyway. If I’m having them in a sandwich I don’t mind them falling apart a bit any more than I mind pulled pork bbq sandwiches.

        January 16, 2014

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