Wednesday, May 14, 2008

how do you crab cake?


So we went for dinner last night to a new place in Alpharetta. Some friends of ours did the interior decoration: paint, new table tops, bar top (all gorgeously done in copper). It’s really quite nice.

The place definitely has potential. But my one beef with it is the crab cake.

Long time readers and friends know that the boy is from Maryland and that we lived there for 5 years. A real Maryland crab cake is a gem. So what’s the main ingredient? Blue crab, of the lump variety. The other ingredients should be scarce and should support the main ingredient. When you bite into a crab cake, you should taste moist delicious crab. You shouldn’t have to fight your way through gobs of breadcrumbs/panko/crackers, or, God forbid, green pepper. It should have a little mayo, an egg, a dash of Worcestershire, a hint of Old Bay seasoning, a little panko (my sister-in-law uses crushed Ritz crackers), and properly seasoned with salt and pepper. This is the Maryland way, and as I’ve stated before, it’s the only way that I think crab cakes ought to be prepared.

When I first moved to Maryland, I was on a quest to find the best crab cake in Baltimore. I had some lousy, some good, some great. Whenever we went out to eat and crab cakes were on the menu, it’s what I ordered. I narrowed down the two best crab cakes (in sandwich form) to a restaurant called Friends in Fells Point, and (of all unlikely places) Camden Yards (this was back in 2001, so there are probably more good crab cakes to be had by now). It is a little strange to be holding a crab cake sandwich in one hand and a 7 dollar cup of beer in the other while watching a ball game, but you get used to it pretty quickly.

I watch, with great interest, cooking shows where crab cakes are featured. I recently watched an Ina Garten episode from a couple of years ago which featured the aforementioned green pepper, including other veg. Crab took a backseat to the rest of the ingredients.

Since we moved back to Atlanta, whenever we go out to eat and there are crab cakes on the menu, the boy feels compelled to order them, even though he knows they will probably not live up to his expectations. They rarely do. In fact, the only place that had a really great crab cake was the now-defunct Rainwater, which was one of the reasons why he wanted to work there (he said that if the chef could make a perfect Maryland-style crab cake, than that chef was worth working for). Another annoyance for him is when menus feature a “jumbo lump crab cake”, and what you end up getting is not jumbo lump at all, and not worth the high price that is charged.

So last night while we were sitting at the gorgeous bar of this new place, he decided to order mini crab cakes off of the appetizer menu, and out came two deep fried pucks. I watched as he drew in his breath and scrutinized them.

The verdict? Not his favorite at all, not by a long shot. For one, deep fried? I agree with him that a crab cake needs to be pan-seared, and then finished in the oven. This one also had chopped celery, and was really under-seasoned. A little salt and pepper would have gone a long way.

Like I said, I like the place, and it has great potential; and God knows we need more good places to eat in Alpharetta, especially when you have friends working behind the bar.

I guess I just kind of opened this up for debate since the boy and I are so damn opinionated about crab cakes; so tell me: what’s your favorite style of crab cake? What do you put in yours?

5 comments:

emily1274 said...

Step away from the crab cakes and STOP ordering them in Georgia! We do not make them down here nearly as well as you guys can in Maryland because a) our crabs from the gulf are much different and b) people cook them differently because we like things FRIED y'all!

The boy cracks me up with his crab cake snobbery...but he has a right to be! His are my favorite!

french tart said...

he knows not to order them, he really does. he's just a big silly, my boy.

Badger said...

MD style, of course, is the only way to go. I had the misfortune of eating a crab cake with green pepper AND pimento, before I knew better than to order them south of here. I used to work for a restaurant in Ocean City, MD, and this is how I make them: I make an imperial sauce with mayo (Duke's is my favorite), Old Bay, egg yolk and a tiny smidge of sherry. I drizzle just enough over the JUMBO LUMP crab meat that it will moisten it when I gently fold it in. Then I add JUST enough breadcrumbs to get it to hold together (and usually, when you broil/sear/plate the thing, some of it will fall apart and that's ok). I prefer to broil them, having brushed them with a tiny bit of butter. I have also included sauteed MINCED (as in, superfine) onion and/or celery, but that's not my favorite way. As you probably know, we Marylanders are equally as snobbish regarding crab dip and cream of crab soup, as well, and there are great debates over who makes the best of those. :)

french tart said...

ken's creative kitchen in annapolis makes the best cream of crab soup i've ever had. in the summer, they have their cafe open for lunch at the Annapolis Landing Marina (may through october, if i remember correctly).

and i love Duke's mayonnaise!

drzachary said...

Peekytoe crab cake at Joel is a wonder. It has less supporting ingredients than a Maryland-style crab cake, but it has a sauce accompanying it.