Hardly Crabby

At the beginning of the month, our first CSA box of the season arrived and I immediately wanted to put together a dinner that showcased some of the wonderful fresh produce. So I put together a simple crab cake recipe featuring the super-fresh chives that were nestled in the bottom of the box and served them alongside a fresh green salad of spinach and sorrel that was dressing with a honey mustard dressing and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Now, that might sound like it was a lot of work, but it was all on the table and being thoroughly enjoyed in less than a half an hour. That's particularly sweet news when dinner looks like this:

Now, before I get too involved in talking about and sharing the recipe, let me say a few things about tweaks you can make. The 1 cup of combined cracker crumbs can really consist of any kind of cracker or bread crumbs you'd like. A lot of people love using panko in crab cakes. Some people have gluten allergies and might want to opt for rice crackers or the like. You get the idea. I used some spicy cheese crackers alongside saltines and found they made additional seasoning in the crab cake mixture unnecessary. You may want to tweak seasonings according to the kind of crumbs you end up using. I also opted to use spicy mustard because we're fans of spicy food in my nest. If you aren't, use whichever variety of mustard your heart desires. The same is true of the flavoring ingredients in the aioli. You can opt to use items other than garlic and hot sauce, or you might want to forego having a sauce for your crab cakes altogether! It's really up to you.

I have found that one of the keys to consistent, delicious crab cakes is forming the patties so that they are all of uniform size and shape. Rather than rely on my ability to do that entirely by hand, I simply use an ice cream scoop and flatten the scoops slightly. Bingo! I've got a batch of perfect crab patties for frying. Keeping the oil (or, as I opted, bacon grease) at a medium-high temperature helps to give you perfectly fried crab cakes after you've cooked them about 3 minutes per side. Once you've got them all fried, it's just a matter of nestling them alongside the side of your choice (I highly recommend a simple green salad to counter the strong flavors present in the crab cakes and aioli) and drizzling them with some of the aioli. Then the only thing that's left is to sit down and enjoy them and look forward with anticipation to many more great summer meals like this!

Simple Crab Cakes with Spicy Garlic Aioli

For the spicy garlic aioli:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (do not use miracle whip salad dressing)
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon hot sauce (I used some of my homemade hot sauce, which consists of blending a can of chipotles in adobo sauce until a paste forms)
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
For the crab cakes:
  • About 8 oz. crab meat (2 well-drained cans will work perfectly)
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed saltine crackers
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed spicy cheese crackers
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon spicy mustard
  • 2-4 tablespoons finely diced fresh chives
  • 2-4 tablespoons bacon grease or oil, for frying

To make the spicy garlic aioli, combine all of the aioli ingredients (mayonnaise through ground pepper) in a small bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the crab cakes.

To make the crab cakes, mix the crab, bread crumbs, milk, egg, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and chives in a bowl. This step can be done in advance and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Form patties by using an ice cream scoop or similarly-sized spoon and your hands to shape them. If the mixture does not hold its shape, refrigerate for an hour before forming patties.

Heat the bacon grease or oil over medium-high heat in a relatively large nonstick skillet. Once to temperature, fry the patties in the hot bacon grease or oil until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.

  • Yields: 8-10 crab cakes
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes