Larry McGoldrick’s Maryland Crabcakes
Each pound of backfin (lump ) crabmeat (don’t make crabcakes with claw or regular) makes about six crabcakes. Use the meat from blue crabs only. King crab tastes horrible.
1 lb backfin (lump) crabmeat
4 – 5 tablespoons real mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (Grey Poupon, probably)
1 raw egg
10 small saltines (more or less—a pile about 5 in. high)
1 teaspoon genuine Old Bay Seasoning (more or less)
With your hands, gently crush the saltines into small pieces, about 1/4″. Do not pulverize. Throw with the raw egg, mayonnaise, mustard, and Old Bay seasoning into a mixing bowl and stir well. The binder should come out somewhat liquid.
Now dump in the 1 lb. of crabmeat and gently fold into the binder mixture. The key is to not overwork the crabmeat. If you do, the pieces come out too small. Tastes fine, but the texture sucks. Taste. You might want to add a tad more mayo or Old Bay. Your choice.
With your hands, gently form lumps of the mixture into cakes about 3/4 ” thick and 3 – 4 ” diameter. You should get 6 or so cakes. Put them on a sheet of waxed paper. At this stage, you can add to or delete from any of the cakes to make them uniform in size and quite pleasing to the eye. Act like you give a shit.
Put about 3/8 in. peanut oil (don’t use olive oil) into a large cast iron skillet and heat on medium-high flame. You want the oil temperature to be close to 400 degrees F. Gently slide the cakes into the oil. When the bottom is golden tan, gently turn them over. (I use a spatula and a slotted spoon to do this. Be careful—they’re very fragile until the binder mixture sets.) When tan on the second side, take them out and drain them on a wad of paper towels.
Serve with Worcestershire sauce on saltines, if you like. I don’t. These are traditionally served (in Bawmer) with an ice-cold Natty Boh. That’s all we could afford in the college days.
- Regardless of what you read anyplace else, or what your well-meaning friends who are likely idiots and pinheads will tell you, resist the temptation to add peppers, onions, garlic, parsley, or anything else to these beauties. My crabcakes are competition-quality.
- Never add green chiles. Just like you don’t put Old Bay on a green chile cheeseburger.
- The clue to successful preparation is to not overheat. You are not cooking anything—you are heating and browning just enough to set the binder. And watch carefully—these can get too brown in a hurry. You might want to turn the gas flame down a tad before heating. You should surely do this for cooking successive batches in the same oil.
- You may use two eggs if you wish. I don’t care.
- You may substitute 1/4–1/2 tsp. Colman’s dry mustard for the Dijon. Be careful.
- Resist the temptation to use any other spice mix than Old Bay. Everything else sucks.
If you reduce the mayo, eliminate the eggs and the saltines, you will have a fantastic crab salad. Serve on lettuce with tomato wedges and a squeeze of lime (never lemon).
These crabcakes were featured in Albuquerque The Nagazine’s May 2011 Food and Wine issue.
They have been served at Nicky V’s Neighborhood Pizzeria and Patio (one of Albuquerque’s best restaurants) atop some spinach linguini.
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You are a genius Larry! Made these exactly as written, they are absolutely the quintessential perfect crab cake! Diego loves them too, and he’s not even a seafood person, but I actually had to watch him from stealing the last one off my plate! There were no leftovers… OMG they are sooo good! Fabulous!
Of course I’m a genius, Mari.
Humble, too. 😉
My daughter and I are coming to New Mexico for 8 days – we arrive on Tuesday and leave the following Wednesday. I was reading reviews on Chowhound, saw a link to your blog, have been taking notes on your restaurant reviews. Thanks for creating such an informative blog!
I live in small village in Virginia, on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay – where the blue crab rules. I’ve been making crab cakes since I was a kid. Your recipe is a good one (as alternative filler, you can soak 2 pieces of soft white bread in milk, squeeze them, tear them up into small pieces, and add to the crab).
I have a suggestion that will make cooking crab cakes easier. I learned this from the ladies who cook crab cakes on Tangier Island out in the Bay. After you make the cakes, put them in the fridge (or the freezer) until they are cold to the touch. When the crab cakes are cold, they stiffen up, so they are less fragile and won’t crumble when you slide them into the frying pan.
Many thanks for this informative, interesting blog! My daughter and I are very excited about the trip!