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" diameterIngredients
- 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
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
Mix all ingredients together.
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?