Monday, January 12, 2009

Mission: Ultimate Crab Cake

Is this the ultimate crab cake? I'm getting closer.

I started out the year 2009 on a mission to find the ultimate crab cake.

I used a Williams and Sonoma recipe for the first batch I made for New Year's Eve. They were delicious, but, alas, not the ultimate.

Then I remembered the crab cakes I sampled at the Turf Club at Santa Anita Race Track five years ago. Now that was a crab cake. Slightly crisp outside, moist (but not mushy) and meaty on the inside. It was as though Merlin waved his magic wand and the fresh lumps of crab clung together without the help of bread crumbs, mayo or eggs.

I found the recipe online and decided to whip up a batch for a friend's birthday party. The first instruction was to reduce one cup of heavy cream to 1/3 cup. It provided no clue about how to reduce the cream. Should I put it on a Weight Watcher's diet?

I poured the cup of cream into a sauce pan over a low flame. I stirred and watched and watched and stirred. After 20 minutes it became a little thicker. I turned up the heat and stirred and watched for another 10 minutes. It still hadn't reduced to 1/3 cup, but I was running out of time. I needed to cool the cream before I could move to the next step.

I rushed the process and ended up with a soggy concoction that didn't stick together. I dipped the gooey crab mixture into flour, then egg and bread crumbs. I gave up after four crab cakes. The process was excruciating, but the cakes were exquisite.

I squeezed some lemon juice into the left over crab mixture and called it crab dip.

The next day I took the left over dip and made three more crab cakes. This time, the cakes stayed together a little more easily after a night of chillin' in the fridge. My hands were a mess, but the crab cakes were very close to being the ultimate. If only I could get that cream to reduce.

Santa Anita Crab Cakes
(Adapted from

1 lb jumbo lump crab
1 cup cream
4 tablespoons red bell pepper, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/3 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

flour and fresh breadcrumbs

Reduce the cream until it is about 1/3 the volume and is thickened. Add the red peppers at the end of the reduction -- do not cook further. Allow to cool slightly.

Place the crabmeat in a mixing bowl and separate the lumps very gently to avoid breaking apart. Make a "well" in the center of the bowl. Now add everything including the cream mixture to the center of the bowl. Very lightly and carefully toss this mixture together until all of the ingredients are combined. Refrigerate until well chilled, then remove and form into balls about 5 oz each, return to refrigerator until the crab cakes are firm.

Bread the crab cakes in flour, then egg, then fresh bread crumbs. Fry either in a pan or Fryer at 325 degrees until golden brown. Drain Slightly. Finish the crab cake in a 400 degree oven for about 7 or 8 minutes.

  • Make sure to start several hours in advance because of all the chilling time required.
  • I added a 1/4 tsp. of the Old Bay seasoning to the dredging flour.
  • I skipped the last step of finishing off the cakes in the oven.

I served the crab cakes with spinach sauteed in olive oil with garlic and dried cranberries.


Ann said...

They look absolutely scrumptious!

Pam said...

Crab cakes are my very favorite meal. I love how golden brown yours are...they look amazing.

altadenahiker said...

It's my birthday!!! (in ten months)

Susan C said...

Thanks, Ann. I can't wait to make them for you and Chris.

Hi, Pam. I was pleased with the color too. You're a much more competent cook than I am. Do you have any advice on reducing cream?

AH, perfect. In ten months I should have this recipe perfected!

Nelle said...

OMG they look heavenly. I LOVE crab cakes. I have never heard of reducing cream. To reduce balsamic vinegar you cook it I would imagine it would be the same. I think I might research this when I can find the time! I will deffinitely make them perhaps for my mother for her birthday! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Carolyn Jung said...

A couple years ago, I had the most amazing crab cakes at Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant in Healdsburg. They were big, plump, and loaded with crab. The outside was wonderfully crispy, and the inside dense with lump crab meat. The restaurant changed chefs recently, but I sure hope those crab cakes are still on the menu.

Nancy said...

Susan, They look fantastic and delicious, too. I love crab cakes. Where do you find the time to do this? I know you're juggling a lot of balls right now. Very impressive. I'm going to try it, but not this week. I have too much on my plate (wish there were too many crab cakes on my plate.) It was great to have lunch with you yesterday. You are a ball of energy and are all inspiring. see you soon, nancy

altadenahiker said...

Just taking another look at what's mine in 10 months...

Susan C said...

Carolyn, I was so excited to read about the crab cake recommendation at Dry Creek. I LIVE for those kinds of tips!

Nancy, I think that's my problem - trying to juggle too many balls while I cook. I haven't mastered that.

And soon we will have the Daikokuya ramen that we were cheated of!

Speaking of cheated, AH. You were cheated of the apple butter, so it's only fitting that you win the birthday crab cakes.

SFphotocraft said...

As Chris is from Virginia he is very fussy about his crab cakes. The true east coast crab cakes are a bit lumpy and loosely held together. He finds the west coast copy cats are finely mixed, too tight and packed hard. Your cakes look like the real deal. Perfectly loosely packed and wonderful lumps of crab meat! You can pass those off in Maryland.

Piper Robert said...

I love good crab cakes.

Do you ever think about the days in good old West Virginia, when we never heard of crab cakes? The closest we came to them was "Mrs. Paul's" fish sticks or oyster dressing.

I remember the first time I had FRIED oysters at the West Virginia restaurant. Wow, what a grand experience. We sat in a booth, had our good clothes on and the flatware was on a napkin. Can you imagine? We had our good clothes on and were in a real restaurant. I looked to Mom for some nonverbal cues as to when it was appropriate to begin eating. Mom had a subtle way of nodding or a slow blink to get her point across. The oysters definitely reigned supreme. I cut them into small pieces and savored every bite. I was probably 11 years old.

Way back then, to think about having crab of any sort was other worldly. Like the days when you and I were little guys and we sat on the couch together, looking at the Sears catalog. It was like a fantasy book opened to a different world and we got to pick one item from each page. Remember?

My, my, how times have changed. Now you get to live a life many would love to have. You are truly blessed with a great life and even greater friends.

Love ya!

Piper Robert said...

p.s. AH was cheated of the apple butter? I missed that one. What happened?

Susan C said...

PR, Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Yea, eating at the West Virginia Restaurant was like dining at The Ritz, although it was likely no more fancy than a Denny's. I loved their open-face roast beef sandwiches. Haven't found one that good since, and probably never will.

Nathan sent me a great email about his first experience eating crab. It came between two pieces of bread and the legs were poking out. "Do I eat all of this" he asked. Everyone laughed at him. It was deep fried soft shell crab.

And thanks for the reminder that I have a great life. "Livin' large," as my friend MS would say.

Just joking about AH being cheated out of the apple butter. She really wanted it, and it ended up going to one of my favorite local food bloggers, Wandering Chopsticks. And she swapped for an amazing jar of homemade chilli sauce.

Susan C said...

HI SF, I've never had an east coast crab cake, but it's great to learn that mine resemble them. I think that I'm going to have to go to the coast of Maryland or Virgina to find the elusive perfect crab cake.

Oh, and welcome to the blog world. I think you'll have fun with it.

Terry B said...

The crab cakes sound delicious, but I'm even more intrigued by the dried cranberries in the sauteed spinach! I love sauteed spinach, and this opens up a whole new way to play with it.

Petrea said...

They look good. Really good. So good in fact, that I'll have to go somewhere where they have them on the menu. I know me well enough to know I'll never cook anything where I have to start "several hours in advance."

Susan C said...

Hi Terry, I had read on someone else's blog about adding yellow raisins to dark greens, so I thought I'd give the dried cranberries a try. They plump up nicely when sauteed and add a nice sweet and sour balance to the garlicky spinach.

Speaking of balance - it took five hours to saute the spinach and hours to make the crab cakes. Does that balance out?

Petrea, I usually steer clear of any dish that requires more than an hour advance planning, but I am obsessed with this crab cake mission.

I just got an invitation to the Hillsides Day at the Races at the Santa Anita Turf Club. That means I'll get to have the fabulous crab cakes that someone else slaved over.

Petrea said...

Yep. Those sound like my kind of crab cakes.

Susan C said...

Oops - meant it took five MINUTES to saute the spinach.

Piper Robert said...

Re: "but I am obsessed with..."

That's what we Strothers do.

Anonymous said...

Can I use tuna as a substitute? I've got a can of white albacore packed in water. You my think I'm kidding but I'm not.

Elra said...

whoa, your crab cakes look so moist inside. It's my favorite appetizer.

Elra said...

Such a pleasure to found your sweet comment today. Of course I would give you my recommendation. I have this chocolate torte (taste heavenly) and it's very easy to make (seriously), and the other one is Tart Tatin (also easy) here are the link:

Hope this help!

Susan C said...

Elra, Thanks so much for these recipes. My friend also thanks you. One problem - we can't decide which one to make first.

Nora said...

Now I want crab cakes. Yum!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

The only time I made crab cakes was with crab, bread crumbs, parsley, and mayonnaise. I've never heard of using cream before. BTW, not sure if it's still on sale, but last time I was at the SG Superstore, Dungeoness crabs were $2.99/lb.

BTW, I loved your brother's anecdote about your childhood. What a great glimpse into your previous life.

Jo said...

that is an excellent mission! I love crab cakes... on my goodness I love crab cakes!

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