Recipe: Maryland style crab cakes

chris-ince

Maryland style crab cakes

It’s in the nature of cooks that while we’re using the best products of the season, we’re also looking ahead to what we can cook with next month, and the month after that, and possibly the month after that. From a personal perspective, May is the month that I anticipate most for one reason alone – we can start eating British crab again, something that continues right throughout the summer.

Crab should be avoided during the winter months as it is the breeding season. However, during the summer months, the meat is sweet and delicious, not to mention extremely versatile.

I know that most kitchens are hard pressed to make their margins and that Cornish brown crab might not be the first thing the chef thinks of when planning meals to send out at £3 a plate. But, if there was ever a product that still has a perception of luxury and that could feature as a tariff-busting, top line driving seasonal special, then perhaps crab is it.

Opinions vary on the best way to cook a crab. While the creature should be alive when you buy it, I believe it should be dead before it enters the pot. This means locating the small hole under the triangular flap on the underside of the crab and giving a screwdriver a sharp tap until it reaches the shell on the other side, then move it from side to side. Boil the crab in plenty of salted water for 15mins (for one that weighs up to 1kg). Rinse the crab off in cold water and leave to cool before going to work on extracting the meat.

The featured recipe is for Maryland crab cakes, a stunning delicacy. It’s really nothing more than white meat, loosely bound with a little egg and seasoned with English mustard powder, Worcester sauce and chopped parsley. Its most natural home in the contract environment might well be as a hot bite on a canapé menu, but consider it as part of a Friday fish offer on the mains counter. If served with a lightly toasted bun and a little dressed watercress, this would make the most delicious lunch.

Move over, the omnipresent ‘posh’ fish finger sandwich.

The brown meat also makes a brilliant lunch if spread on a thick slice of sourdough toast and served with a tomato salad.

You could of course buy packs of picked crab meat but the danger here is that the texture will be lost. What we are looking for is large nuggets of juicy sweet crab, barely held together. Not small shards of pasteurised meat bound up with too much filler to taste of anything. Best to talk to your fish supplier and see what they suggest.

Serves 10

  • 80g cream crackers
  • 800g white crab meat
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2tbsp English mustard powder
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put the crackers into a blender and blitz to a fine crumb. Add this to the picked crab meat and leave to absorb the moisture for an hour. Beat together the eggs, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. Pour enough into the crab meat for it to bind together then add the seasonings, parsley and a little lemon juice. Fry in some foaming butter. Enjoy!