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The Crabcake


bavila
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Maybe it takes a non-native of Maryland to pose the question, what is the big deal about crabcakes? And more specifically, why the great argument over who has "the best" crabcake? There's no great mystery to the ingredients (lots of crab! big hunks of lumpmeat! no breadcrumbs!) or the technique (broiled, fried, or if your lucky, grilled). I could see having a strong preference for a crab source -- Maryland or Carolinas or the Gulf -- but most people don't seem to know or care the source of their favorite crabcake purveyor's crab.

So why do Marylanders rant and rave about their favorite crabcakes? Are there deeper (or more shallow) issues here?

And just for argument's sake, my favorite crabcake of all time was a grilled Dungeness crabcake served with a bit of mango jalapeno chutney in Poulsbo, Washington. (are these fightin' words? :wink: )

Bridget Avila

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Maybe it takes a non-native of Maryland to pose the question, what is the big deal about crabcakes? And more specifically, why the great argument over who has "the best" crabcake? There's no great mystery to the ingredients (lots of crab! big hunks of lumpmeat! no breadcrumbs!) or the technique (broiled, fried, or if your lucky, grilled). I could see having a strong preference for a crab source -- Maryland or Carolinas or the Gulf -- but most people don't seem to know or care the source of their favorite crabcake purveyor's crab.

So why do Marylanders rant and rave about their favorite crabcakes? Are there deeper (or more shallow) issues here?

And just for argument's sake, my favorite crabcake of all time was a grilled Dungeness crabcake served with a bit of mango jalapeno chutney in Poulsbo, Washington. (are these fightin' words?  :wink: )

I have to agree, as a non native Virginian. I realize that it is a point of regional pride fueled by tradition and memories. As long as the crab is lump, has nice seasoning and little filler is used, it's a good crabcake. How hard is it, really?

Moreover, what I do not get is the $16-$18 price tags.

The most memorable crabcakes I had recently was when visiting back in Philadelphia, at local seafood restaurant. Two big panko crusted cakes, with two sides and a salad for $17 bucks.

Same sentiments go for crab. A crab boiled with the usual seasoning. How different can they be if, given that they are all Chesapeake? I dunno, maybe I'm not enlightened.

And, I can say, being a Philly native, I just don't get into any discussions about cheesesteaks and who has the best, provolone, cheesewhiz.I mean, whatever makes you happy, slap it on. I love them. Ate them all my life. But please, it's meat and cheese on a roll. You know who makes the best? Me. Because I stuff that sucker and pile on the provolone with just the right splash of marinara sauce. So there....

Edited by monavano (log)
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Well, I agree and I don't agree. Admittedly I'm non-native as well. Grew up in Virgnia, spent 5 years in Indiana/Ohio, and moved to Maryland about a year ago. As one who loves a good crabcake, the move last year was terrific for me! :rolleyes:

But while it quickly led me to some good crabcakes, it also led me to some really aweful ones. Like is said above, "How hard should it be?" But unfortunately there seem to be an amazing number of people who cannot do it. So while maybe it is a little ridiculous to claim the "best" crabcake, pay attention when a place has a reputation for good ones. There ARE some rotten little buggers full of weird herbs and bland crab waiting out there to ambush you! :angry:

Edited by donk79 (log)
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It seems like an absurd question to ask: "what's the big deal about crab cakes?"

Like any part of the world, there's going to be a local debate about whatever regional specialty is "best." There's the perennial fight over Eastern and Western North Carolina Barbecue. Who's fried chicken is best? Who's grits? French Laundry or The Fat Duck? Coke or Pepsi? Corn flakes or rice Chex? Pat's or Geno's?

I've found that my life is more fulfilled by not wasting my time trying to understand those personal whims of people which I do not understand.

That said, I've tried crab cakes all over and one of the best I've sampled was a couple weeks ago at Fresh Fresh Seafood on York Road in Towson.

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Maybe it takes a non-native of Maryland to pose the question, what is the big deal about crabcakes? And more specifically, why the great argument over who has "the best" crabcake? There's no great mystery to the ingredients (lots of crab! big hunks of lumpmeat! no breadcrumbs!) or the technique (broiled, fried, or if your lucky, grilled). I could see having a strong preference for a crab source -- Maryland or Carolinas or the Gulf -- but most people don't seem to know or care the source of their favorite crabcake purveyor's crab.

So why do Marylanders rant and rave about their favorite crabcakes? Are there deeper (or more shallow) issues here?

And just for argument's sake, my favorite crabcake of all time was a grilled Dungeness crabcake served with a bit of mango jalapeno chutney in Poulsbo, Washington. (are these fightin' words?  :wink: )

Let me be clear: if you have to even ask this question, have not had a proper crab cake.

Come 'round my place about mid-July when the tomatoes are at their best and the local corn's coming in, and I'll give you a little crab cake lesson -- everything from Old Bay and tartar sauce to that 90's-era mango salsa stuff you had in Washington (a great state, and Dungeness crabs are wonderful, but they ain't the stuff of proper crab cakes). It's what summer tastes like.

(You may have a problem in that the cost of crabs is so ridiculous now, that yer local shack can't really afford to put out a decent cake for a reasonable price, so they're selling fare that would not equal the cakes of yesteryear. Think about that next time you fertilize your lawn.)

PS: Grilled crab cakes are for wimps. :wink:

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Maybe it takes a non-native of Maryland to pose the question, what is the big deal about crabcakes? And more specifically, why the great argument over who has "the best" crabcake? There's no great mystery to the ingredients (lots of crab! big hunks of lumpmeat! no breadcrumbs!)

There's already a mystery right there: why no breadcrumbs?

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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This may not be Maryland and I have never been there but I love crabcakes. I don't want a bunch of weird stuff in them, a lot of crab, a little onion, a few cracker crumbs (not bread), and a bit of mayo.

No red, green, or chile pepper, no strong herbs, and God help us no flour! Worst crabcakes I ever had were in what is one of the better restaurants around here and I swear the chef stuck them together with flour. Worse than the ones at Long John's and thopse are pretty bad.

I want to taste crab which is easily overwhelmed by other flavors.

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This may not be Maryland and I have never been there but I love crabcakes. I don't want a bunch of weird stuff in them, a lot of crab, a little onion, a few cracker crumbs (not bread), and a bit of mayo.

No red, green, or chile pepper, no strong herbs, and God help us no flour! Worst crabcakes I ever had were in what is one of the better restaurants around here and I swear the chef stuck them together with flour. Worse than the ones at Long John's and thopse are pretty bad.

I want to taste crab which is easily overwhelmed by other flavors.

My personal opinion is that anyone who puts bell pepper in a crabcake doesn't understand the nature of crab meat.

Kim

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PS: Grilled crab cakes are for wimps.  :wink:

This sounds true enough to me. How does one build a crab cake that is packed tightly enough to hold together on a grill, anyway? By packing it with flour or breadcrumbs? Which would make it a rather lousy crabcake, wouldn't it?

Seriously. I'm asking this question because I don't know the answer. I've never had a grilled crabcake, but I've had some excellent ones that were very loosely packed, pan-fried, and only lightly coated on the outside with breadcrumbs. That sort of crabcake would totally fall apart on a grill, I should think.

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A good crabcake has a simple appeal: maximum lump crab meat for minimum effort. Either you like crab meat or you don’t. This assumes that you have had a good crabcake (most aren’t). As Busboy mentioned, good crab meat is expensive so many places cut corners. It also seems like a lot of folks prefer crab-flavored hush puppies.

I prefer to get messy picking crabs, but that option is not always available or socially appropriate.

Come 'round my place about mid-July when the tomatoes are at their best and the local corn's coming in, and I'll give you a little crab cake lesson

Busboy: Date, time, and directions to your house, please. :biggrin:

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I adore crab ...and have never once tasted what I would consider a "good" crabcake...people have told me "oh they have the best crabcakes around" so I order one and I am telling you ....so far I just dont think I like crab treated like that...

and I agree about the bell pepper what is that anyway?? it tastes horrbile with crab!!!

I know there are good crab cakes out there...otherwise why would they be so popular...

personally I have not tried one

I may however have to go for a spin over to Poulsbo and check the one mentioned about out!

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Colossal crab meat @ $20 + a pound wholesale, may make four jumbos, not hard to figure why they are expensive. Delicate and regional, mostly misunderstood by the public, crab cakes are elegant in delivery and simplistic and pure by nature, especially when kissed by lemon & old style butter. Sauces and chutneys on the side please and pass the champagne!

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Busboy -- dude, I am so there. We in the metro area may hold your feet to the fire on this one. Oh, and (assuming you were the one who moved it) let me know when you move my thread, will 'ya?

I usually pay little attention to people reporting a restaurant to have "the best crabcakes" cuz they are usually people whose culinary opinion I don't respect otherwise. What does that tell us? And if mediocre restaurants with mediocre cakes are the ones getting talked about, does that mean it's just a dish I'd like better in a home kitchen (like Busboy's...)?

I actually like a little fresh corn with my crab, maybe because one of my favorite things in the world is crab and corn bisque. Otherwise, I'd vote for the purist route.

Bridget Avila

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Im originally from maryland (baltimore area) and to tell you the truth I don't really care for crab cakes. I would much rather have some crabs to crack open with an ice cold beer. However the crab cakes I do like are the ones that fall apart as soon as you dig in with a fork and they must be made with an ice cream scooper

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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Crabcakes are everywhere. Good crabcakes are rare to find in restaurants, and frankly, folks just wouldn't be willing to pay for top-notch specimens. They're quite easy to make: jumbo lump (NOTHING else will really work), some egg, mayo, Old Bay, the slightest amount of bread crumbs to hold it together, and any herbs/scallions that you want. That's it. Don't make them too big, as you want a great crust with complete cooking throughout.

The question was, "What's the big deal?", and I agree with that for 95% of the crabcakes out there. Maybe 99%. But the 1-5% that get it right, well, it's the best. Yeah, it may work out that the cost is 4-5 bucks a crabcake, but these are the way god intended crab to be (all apologies to Busboy and his messy table notwithstanding!).

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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one big reason i love to go see our client in maryland is....the crabcake sandwiches they have catered in for our lunch. the big lumps of dleicate crab that we can season or not to our liking: the good stuff. thanks, katie (you know who you are).

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I get my crab at Hoppies in Port Deposit, MD and pick my own meat. Then I make my own crab cakes. They are worth ever dime and ever minute of prep time. They are also worth the hour and half drive from PA to pick up the crab.

Picking crab is one lovely feast, but those crunch delicious cakes, it will only be a few more weeks before the crab is running again. Woohoo!

**************************************************

Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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As a native Shoreboy, it is with some irony that I both make a decent crabcake yet personally consider the dish sort of a waste of good crab. I would much rather sit down to a picnic table, armed solely with a a razor-sharp crab or paring knife, and tackle a pile of hot steamed beauties accompanied by pickles, cheese and beer.

When I do make them, I like to caramelize some fresh sweet corn in butter, add a little chipotle in adobo and onion or shallot, then mix with lump crab, mayo, mustard, soft breadcrumbs, a dash of worcestershire and Old Bay. No measurements. Form into patties, chill to set and sautee in butter.

The best I've had in a restaurant are at the dark and anachronistic Robert Morris Inn in Oxford. I haven't been there in years but their legendary crabcakes back then were the only reason to go.

Like oysters and lobster, crabcakes also were once humble food -- certainly not $18 chef's creations. I've talked to people from watermen's families, and many tell a similar story: that fresh fish, crabs and the harvest from a large vegetable garden fed a family in the summer; meanwhile, women would pick surplus crab and make crabcakes to freeze for winter.

I don't know if this is the definitive history of the dish, but it's at least one of its simpler origins on the Eastern Shore.

(Edited to change "very good" to decent. I reread it this morning and thought, "How smug and unsubstantiated." Just after posting last night my dad called me and offered me a dozen leftover crabs, very light, but I picked them out and made three crabcakes to eat later.)

Edited by chappie (log)
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(I will try to get a crabcake event going later in the summer -- when the corn and 'maters are in...anyone reading this please feel free to nag me starting on or about Independence Day).

Among the reason I like crabcakes is that crabs are such a pain to eat, I prefer to get all the hard work done early (if we're working from crabs rather than store-bought meat) and then revel in the pure delight crab-munching without having to go back to work every time I finish a couple of ounces of meat.

I'm actually pretty ecumenical in my cake tastes, which I'm sure drives some og the purists nuts. We do "French" crabcakes with buerre blanc and "Mexican" crabcakes with roast cumin and salsa and "Chinese" crabcakes with whatever's laying around the house. Plus more traditional variations, as well. And even if we are commiting apostasy, we do keep the flavorings subtle and keep the crab flavor in the forefront. Most important, we use Ritz crackers for our breading. Everything's better when it sits on a Ritz. :laugh: Maybe a little cream, instead of mayo, if we're in the mood to moisturize.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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:shock: In my opinion the best crabcake is to be found at a resturant called the Captain's Galley in Crisfield Maryland.

Why is it the best?

1. It is made from the proper crab - the Blue Crab (callinectes sapidus) They don't have to be from Maryland, they range from Mass. to Texas. However 50% of US crabs are harvested from the Chesapeake

2.When you break into it with your fork, you wonder what held it together thru the broiling and plateing

3. There are no intrusions to the flavor of the jumbo lump meat (bell peppers, onions herbs etc.) Maybe a touch of Old Bay and I think a dab of mayo

What else? The fact that I am in a town that calls itself the Crab Capitol of the Wolrd. Plus my table is on the dock open to the Chesapeake Bay. (I think this has a lot to do with it)

Do I make crab cakes at home?.............No!

I am lucky enough to live in Ocean City NJ. The bay is one block away and with our traps and hand lines, my wife and I can, in the warm weather, catch all the blue crabs we want. We cook them, cover the table with newspaper, put a out a pitcher of beer, a roll of paper towels and wood mallets and go to town.

If the good Lord made anything better, He would have kept it for Himself!! :raz:

Edited by ChrisOC (log)

Chris

Cookbooks are full of stirring passages

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Crabs (and dishes made from them) are historically a 'Maryland' staple. In the past (circa 1930's) steamed crabs were free in Balto bars to encourage more beer purchases. They were so plentiful and cheap that everyone had their own family recipe. It's just like any other regional specialty.

That said, crabcakes made with truly fresh crab (not pasteurized) are sweet enough with no embellishment needed. Just a little mayo and box-grated toast crumbs, Old Bay and a drip of worcestershire, then pan-fry in as little oil/butter mix as possible.

Burgundy makes you think silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them ---

Brillat-Savarin

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If the good Lord made anything better, He would have kept it for Himself!!

Put "Blue crabs - " in front of that, and there's a sig line waiting to be taken. Tho I like the one ChrisOC already has :wink:

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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