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Apr 28, 2010 09:19 PM

Baltimore crab cake

I need to agree with the other posters. A good crab cake should never be sauced. The reason for this is quite simple: the sauce is built into the crab cake.

Here is a baseline recipe for a Baltimore style crab cake:

1 egg (maybe 2)
1 or 2 spoons Helmunds
a little mustard
maybe a shake of cayenne pepper
a little black pepper
a little parsley

this is wisked together, and tossed with

1 lb MARYLAND CRAB MEAT, WITH FAT (emphasis added, and also yelling)

to this is added some cracker crumbs (a few saltines beat with a crab mallet), This makes about 6 cakes which are FRIED in a little butter, or maybe Crisco or vegetable oil. NO BROILING (yelling again).

Notice there is no Old Bay, which is for shrimp and tourists. And no bread.

So the mayonnaise, mustard, and especially the CRAB FAT make a sauce inside the crab cake, and the crab fat is tastier than anything else known to man. The source of the problem though, and the reason you are considering a sauce, is that restaurants do not serve this type of crab cake-- it is not commercially viable, and the fat is generally absent in commercial crab meat available today. I am not even going to mention the imported crab meat, other than to say that I am not mentioning it.

What does all of this add up to? Like everything else, if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.

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  1. Steve, I agree with you 100%!! The crab fat (mustard) issue is a forgotten one, you need to pick your own crabs to get it right, and if so, you will get plenty of crab spice (Old Bay or JO) coming along with the crab meat, so your advice to not add any more is correct!. If you buy store-bought MD crab meat (now getting really scarce). Maryland law requires that it be steamed ONLY with water before picking--no spice or additives. Therefore, a dash of crab spice to your crab cake mixture will brighten up the flavor of your crab cakes, and in that case will make up somewhat for the lack of crab fat (mustard)..

    12 Replies
    1. re: JRCann

      PLUS-- I eat my crab cakes naked!

      1. re: JRCann

        When you say crab fat, do you mean the yellow mustard? I've eaten it, and I think it's gross.

        1. re: jvanderh

          yeah the yellow mustard is mother natures seasoning. If you don't like it you probably don't really like crabs. If you are eating steamed crabs, a little (along with the crab spice) usually comes along with the meat on your fingers. Perhaps you really don't know that you like it.You need to go to the UK and have crab with the brown meat!

          1. re: JRCann

            The Maryland Department of the Environment recommends you NOT eat the mustard (depending on where in MD your crabs are from). I suppose you could be paranoid and always ask your fishmonger/crabman where the crabs came from exactly. Good luck with that. I'll have to ask my wife about the mustard though--I'm fairly certain she doesn't miss it in her crab cakes, and there's nobody more Maryland than her. I admit that I love the taste of mustard while I'm hacking away at a pile of steamed crabs, but after reading the MDE's recommendations, I'll pass from now on.


            1. re: JRCann

              I was born and raised in Baltimore and yes, I really like crabs. Not liking the half-digested goo inside a crab does not mean you don't really like crabs. That seems like kind of a ridiculous thing to say.

              1. re: jvanderh

                not what I said at all, my friend --- I said " a little (along with the crab spice) usually comes along with the meat on your fingers. " What you don't know won;t hurt ya' my grandma always said. BTW, the MD Dept of Envor. should stick with lead poisoning issues and leave the crabs to the DNR.

                1. re: JRCann

                  Yeah, "accidentally" getting some mustard on the lips is good. Almost feels like you're getting away with breaking the law.

                  I guess the Maryland government is specializing in what each department is good at. The DNR is responsible for making sure there are lots of fish and crabs around for us to eat. And the DOE is responsible for telling us not to eat it. See? Perfect government.

                  1. re: nstoddar

                    exactly!... bu,t OTH, if the Department of the Environment actually did their job effectively, we would have millions of healthy callienectes sapidis swimming around the Bay which we could catch and devour w/o any worry about how much of that evil, dastardly yellow mustard we might eat. Who is the failure in saving the Bay, tell me? Sure spent enough money on it!

                    1. re: JRCann

                      A lot of the toxins in Bay seafood come from the Harbor in Baltimore. PCBs. It got worse from the dredging which disturbs the bed of the Harbor.
                      Last year, DoE warned that kids should avoid eating rockfish over 28 inches and no one should eat rockfish more than twice a month.
                      That's the problem with the crab fat/mustard. That's where the PCB is concentrated.
                      It's mostly a problem with brain development in kids, but it can affect adults who eat too much seafood containing it.
                      But life is short anyway. I'm not fortunate enough to eat crabs on a regular basis most summers, so I eat the mustard. Love it. And rockfish too.

              2. re: JRCann

                No, if you don't like the mustard, that means you prefer the clean, sweet flavor of the crab meat itself. The mustard comes from the crab's digestive system, and it's no shame to prefer not to eat it. A good number of the food-related illnesses in the USA come from raw oysters and crustacean guts.

            2. re: JRCann

              Credential: lived 25 years in Maryland. Contribution: Faidley's [seafood] Market in Baltimore's ancient municipal Lexington Market serves crabcakes on a saltine cracker---you hold this in your hand to eat it.

              1. re: Querencia

                I agree, crab cakes on Saltine is the tradition. Maybe white bread. Never a big Kaiser roll.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. yum thank you. I have a great book by Seattle Chef/Author Tom Douglas - "I love crab cakes" and in it many interesting/diff versions. Best I've ever had was a lil place in DC.

              1. Steve, what do you use if you do not have access to Maryland crab?

                The only acceptable crab cake I have ever eaten (and it is wonderful) is made in a restaurant in Montreal, and this is what they say on the menu:

                "Our famous crab cakes, consisting of 95% crab meat and 5% Maryland spices."

                BTW along the same lines as the crab mustard, my wife tells me that I should not eat lobster liver, but I love the stuff.

                3 Replies
                1. re: souschef

                  Addendum: I just discovered that the crab cake I love so much in Montreal is made with Maryland Blue crab.

                    1. re: golfer1

                      Milos. Lots of recco's on the Quebec board.