The merriest Maryland-Style crab cakes
Last weekend I threw a casual dinner party for a few of my dearest friends— a tricky-to-cook-for crowd of carnivores and seafood-only pescatarians. On the menu? Crab cakes. Hey, everyone loves crab cakes, I thought. And all I have to do is order a couple dozen from Allen Brothers, thaw and pan-fry them (3-5 minutes per side over medium-high heat, in a skillet preheated with a thin layer of oil), and toast up freshly baked brioche buns from my favorite local bakery. To go with the crab cake sandwiches on brioche buns, I’d make a fabulous heirloom-tomato salad, open a few bottles of dry Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, and serve key lime pie for dessert. Wham: an easy, scrumptious summer dinner. My seafood-loving friends would be thrilled, and my carnivore pals wouldn’t miss the meat.
The only problem: Just before the dinner party, I found out my friend David doesn’t like crab cakes. I was stumped. First thought: How can anyone not like crab cakes? Second thought: Could David be a freak of nature? Do I even want to be friends with this guy? After I got over my shock, I asked him a polite question: “David, are you insane? How can you possibly not love crab cakes?”
Turns out he had a good reason: Over the years he’s been subjected to too many disappointing crab cakes, made with tiny shreds of crab meat held together in a gloopy, bland mix. And while this sad description is, admittedly, true of the way crab cakes are often made—especially since crab cakes were invented by colonial settlers around the 17th century as a way to economize and stretch the scarce crab meat—the Maryland-Style Crab Cakes from Allen Brothers blow all those out of the water. They’re absolutely jammed with fresh lump crab meat — 75% of each cake is fresh crab— held together with a delicious, just-right mixture of breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, and spices. The mix adds a wonderfully creamy-tangy taste, but the powerhouse flavor comes from the fresh crab meat, loads and loads of it, picked from sweet, all-natural blue crabs.
David and I made a deal: If he tries and likes my crab cakes (by “my crab cakes,” I mean, of course, “Allen Brothers crab cakes”), I’ll agree to try anything he wants to cook for me, including his Scottish grandfather’s notorious haggis recipe.
So David showed up at my crab cake party. He grabbed a crab-cake, put it on a toasted brioche bun slathered with my favorite condiment (I make it by spiking mayonnaise with a squirt of Sriracha hot sauce), and took a bite. I watched him. Poker face. He took another bite. Then another… and another… and less than a minute later the crab cake was gone. He looked at me, another crab cake sandwich in his hand, and whispered: “You win. No haggis.” I was triumphant. I was relieved. I was about to help myself to seconds—but they were all gone, two dozen piping-hot crab cakes vanished without a trace, and a tableful of extremely happy-looking guests. Mission accomplished!