Are you a fan of the humble crab cake, that golden brown, slightly crunchy parcel of delectable deliciousness?
What makes a good crab cake? In my opinion, and probably most crab lovers, high quality lump crab meat, minimal ingredients and and gentle handling. I've eaten crab cakes at many places, some good, some OK and some just plain awful. Even places that I liked on the first visit, the next time they seemed to have changed their recipe. So what made the good ones good and the bad ones bad. Given quality crab in all instances (any anything less than nice lump meat doesn't get counted) some offending ingredients are bell peppers (red and/or green), celery and onions. Not only are the peppers still crisp tender and "crunch", the flavor overwhelms the delicate crab. That version seems to be very popular around here. However, good crab is good all on its own and does not need to be stuffed full of crunchy vegetables and fillers. Any seasonings should just enhance the flavor, not cover it up. Want more spiciness, serve with a tartar or remoulade sauce on the side.
Having figured out what I didn't like, I set out to find a recipe that would produce the results I craved. I searched for crab cake recipes, and scanned through a number of recipes online. I only found a couple that used the offending bell peppers, and barring those, they all used similarly simple ingredients. Wow, this is it. This is what I've been looking for. I actually found the recipe I used here. So when lump crab meat went on sale, I snatched up a pound and proceeded to makes crab cakes using my new-found recipe. The recipe was wonderful, but we had an issue with the crab meat itself. It smelled funny. Not spoiled, but not like I thought crab was supposed to smell. It didn't make us sick, and it tasted...eh...all right. After that, I was leary of trying it again. I could tell, though, that it was a GOOD recipe, so next time I got a different brand, and it was much better. I don't remember either brand right now, but that's not important.
Now for the product review part of this post. When we were in Costco the other day picking up coupon items and some wine, we saw the Phillips brand frozen Maryland-style crab cakes. They were $12.99 for six 3-oz. crab cakes. You pay more than that for a pound of the good stuff at the grocery store, and most recipes make 6 cakes per pound of crab meat. Considering that you can pay that much for a sub par crab cake dinner in restaurants, it seemed like a good deal. I mean they're already made; you just pop them into the oven for about 16 minutes or so, and poof, you've got crab cakes. I don't buy a lot of pre-packaged, already made up stuff, preferring to make my own, but we didn't have anything planned for dinner, so I said, "this is dinner tonight", and into the cart they went. The directions were to bake them on a buttered baking sheet (I used olive oil) at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, turn them and bake an additional 4 minutes. I think I let them go a couple minutes longer while getting the rest of the dinner together. They were nicely seasoned, with nothing overpowering the crab. They had decent size pieces of crab meat, and held together well without being tough or packed with fillers. Just good taste, good texture, and I think, a good value for the money. The flavor was equally as good as my recipe, and at just $2.16 per serving, this is definitely a repurchase. If you like crab cakes, these are worth checking out. Of course I will keep making them from scratch, too!
For the record, I had heard of different styles of crab cakes. I mean every area has one, Carolina style, Charleston style, Chesapeake style, Maryland style. Since I live here in North Carolina and have a hard time finding good crab cakes, I assumed that it was the Carolina style that I didn't care for. I was mistaken in that assumption. My continued research shows that most styles have pretty much the same basic recipe, and that the propensity for adding veggies seems to be more the exception than the rule (except around here).