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Betty's Authentic Baltimore Crabcakes

Betty's Authentic Baltimore Crabcakes
  

Elise's mother Joan lives in Baltimore, and of course we visit her there, and of course, like everyone who goes to Baltimore, we love to have crab when we're there. I still remember my first Baltimore crab cake, the weekend I met Joan almost ten years ago, and I also remember that I decided that night I would never order a crab cake north of Baltimore again. A Baltimore crab cake is all about fresh lump crabmeat, lots of it, and not much else. But when you order crab cakes in Boston, Maine, New York, etc., there's a good chance that what shows up on your plate will be a sodden patty of breadcrumbs, celery and precious little crab, which almost certainly won't be fresh

Fortunately, Joan has a wonderful friend, Betty Wasserman, who grew up in Baltimore and knows how to make the real Baltimore crab cakes. Still going strong at 92 (and living in Atlanta now), Betty was generous enough to share her authentic recipe with me (and give permission to publish it), for which I will be eternally grateful. Maine crab is not exactly the same as Chesapeake Bay crab but it's extremely fresh which is one of the most important requirements in making a good crab cake, so I think that tradeoff is worth it.

Note that in the photo above I'm showing a canapé-sized cake, about 1-1/4" in diameter, served on a bed of arugula. (The recipe below makes about 20 of these.) Betty's recipe makes burger-sized cakes and calls for the cakes to be sautéd in a pan, but at this canapé size I find it easier and better to deepfry them. Also, the sauce shown (recipe below) is my invention but I don't think Betty would object.

Betty Wasserman's Authentic Baltimore Crab Cakes

20 cakes, approximately 1 1/4" diameter

Ingredients
  • 1 pound fresh lump crabmeat
  • 1 egg, beaten with a fork
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, minced
  • 8 saltines crumbled – or 2 slices crustless bread cut in small pieces
  • Corn flour for dredging
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
Method

1. Mix all ingredients and shape into 1" balls, working quickly to minimize handling. Flatten the balls with a knife blade or your fingers.

2. Dredge the cakes in corn flour. Let them rest for about 15 minutes. In a 2 quart or larger saucepan, heat the oil to 370º and fry the crabcakes in small batches until golden brown (about 4 minutes).

3. Drain the crabcakes on a rack. Keep them warm on another rack in a 200º oven while frying subsequent batches.

Alternate method: form into 6 hamburger-sized patties and sauté in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until golden brown.


Stephen's Crabcake Aïoli

Makes about 1/4 cup.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon minced chives
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ketchup
Salt and hot sauce to taste

Method

Mix all ingredients together.
_____________________________

Notes.
1. I didn't order them but the other night at MC Perkins Cove, the wonderful new restaurant in our neighborhood (operated by Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier of Arrows, a restaurant of national distinction), a friend shared his order of crab cakes with me and they were about the best I've had outside of Baltimore. They were small (about 2") and I'm pretty sure they were deep-fried, too.

2. If you visit Baltimore there are crab cakes everywhere, but don't miss your chance to go to G&M Restaurant and Lounge in Linthicum Heights for the best of the best. This place is a non-descript restaurant in a suburban strip-mall on a busy, gritty commercial street. It has a menu a mile long, with steaks, sandwiches, all sorts of seafood, and a whole section of pasta and other Italian dishes, but when you walk in and look around you will see that EVERY diner has the same thing on the plate: a baseball-sized cake (no exaggeration), which is pretty much pure crab meat. This place is definitely out-of-the-way but it's worth the trip. By the way, they bake their cakes, with a finish under the broiler I think, which I've been meaning to try but haven't yet. You can mail-order cakes from them but I haven't tried that either: I've got Betty's recipe so why would I want a frozen crab cake?

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Comments

Crab cakes are one of my favourite dishes. Thanks for sharing the recipe and next time I'm in Baltimore I know where I'm heading!!!

I remember suggesting a variation to Betty, and she responded, "Hon, if you make a change, it won't taste good anymore. And you wouldn't want that now, would you?" I guess not.

Baltimore crab cakes are the best. I can't wait to try this recipe, Hon.

I have been featuring a few alternative recipes on www.crabcakeguy.com I will be sure to offer up a review of your cakes, when I prepare them. Thanks
-The Crab Cake Guy

I love crab cakes. This recipe, including your aïoli, sounds wonderful! I'll try your version next time I make them. Cheers!

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