Summer Fare: Crab Cakes, a surprisingly economical dinner for 6!

Homemade Crab Cakes with Lemon. ADOBE STOCK PHOTO

We create this blog post about the amazing state of Delaware every week and always have a good time putting it together. But every once in a while I worry we’re going to run out of things to spotlight. But then we discover or remember or learn about something new, which makes the worry go away. This week we’re embarking on a topic that will keep us talking until the end of time: Favorite Recipes from Our Family and Friends.

Today’s comes from one of our Lewes neighbors, who grew up living at and/or visiting the ocean as often as possible. He’s got an interesting quirk though. Fresh blue crab is one of his absolute favorite foods. But sitting around a long table in the heat of the summer trying to pick enough meat out of them is one of his least favorite things to do.

So here’s his two-fold solution: 

  • First, buy fresh lump and/or backfin crab that’s already picked, preferably at a local seafood market like Lewes Fish House or Lloyd’s Market or any place that guarantees it’s from local waters in Delaware, Maryland or Virginia.
  • Second, make the yummiest and most interesting crab cakes ever created (Ok that’s his description, but he’s probably right!). 

Equally important if you’re price-conscious, this recipe will feed 6 people with 2 crab cakes apiece. It’ll cost you between $80 and $100 dollars for the 2 pounds of fresh-picked crab you need for it. It takes at least 16 large crabs, expertly picked, to make a pound of crab meat. So you would need about 32 crabs (almost 3 dozen) to provide this much meat if you were just dumping steamed crabs on your picnic table. 

Right now the going rate for steamed crabs from a market in Delaware is about $75 a dozen. So contrast $100 to $225 and you’ll see this is a bargain, even more so when you compare having a nice clean kitchen to the chaos you’ll experience with you and five friends smacking mallets against shells to get at those little bits of crab meat.

(and yes I know that the whole mallet and pickin’ thing is the whole point for some people, but not for everyone).

I also like the fact that you can prepare this several hours or even a day ahead of time to make it easier to entertain.

Crab Cake Recipe

Here’s the recipe. Count on 20 minutes of prep time and 30 minutes to cook before serving. And if possible get help from a buddy since it goes better with two people on the job.

Here’s what you need: 

  • A 12-count muffin pan
  • Pam cooking spray (or any spray that will make it easier to scoop out the cakes)
  • Two large bowls
  • 1 lb. of lump crab and 1 lb. of backfin crab (you can also make this with 2 lbs. of lump but combining it with backfin adds flavor and makes the crab cakes bind together easier).
  • 2 red or green peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • A clove of garlic or a tablespoon of minced garlic from a jar
  • Dijon or any kind of brown mustard
  • Heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 3 cups of Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • Fresh lemons for when it’s time to serve

And here’s how to make the magic happen:

  • Spray the muffin tin with cooking spray
  • Put 2 cups of the Italian bread crumbs and half a cup of Old Bay in one of the bowls
  • Put the crab in the other bowl with 1 cup of the Italian bread crumbs
  • Chop up the peppers and onions into quarter-inch pieces
  • Melt half a stick of butter in a skillet, then add the chopped peppers and onions
  • Sautee’ until they’re soft and the onions are translucent, then stir in the minced garlic or fresh garlic and cook for another minute if you’re using jarred garlic or 2 minutes if you’re using fresh
  • Turn off the heat and add 1/2 cup of heavy cream or half-and-half
  • Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the brown mustard
  • Add the whisked eggs
  • And about ¼ cup of Old Bay
  • Stir it all together and let it sit for 5 or 10 minutes to cool off a bit . . . then add the mixture from the skillet to the bowl with the crab and bread crumbs.
  • Use your hands to gently mix it all together and form each crab cake. They should bind together pretty well because of the butter, cream and eggs and the bread crumbs in the mixture.
  • Roll each crab cake in the bowl that contains bread crumbs only, so they’re coated on the outside (and recognizing that you also have bread crumbs inside each crab cake).
  • Put each crab cake in a cup of the muffin tin.

Cooking instructions:

  • If you’re serving this the day you make it you can begin cooking them as soon as you’ve put them into the muffin tin or, ideally, put them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before you cook them. 
  • You can also put this all together a day before your dinner party to make your life easier, and count on 30 minutes from the time you put them in the preheated oven until you serve them. 
  • Preheat the oven to 375
  • Cook the crab cakes for about 20 minutes, until the tops are a bit browned
  • 10 minutes before serving, turn on the broiler
  • Broil the crab cakes for 5 to 7 minutes so the tops are more browned and melty 

Serve with fresh Delaware corn or other produce from, perhaps with a nice tossed salad, and fresh lemon slices.

Enjoy!

About Christine Davis

Christine grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania in a small town called Pittston, which is located between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Upon graduation, she enlisted in the United States Air Force, where she proudly served for eight + years at a variety of bases throughout the world, including Holland, Korea, and New Mexico. While in the Air Force, Christine spent most of her time working in the civil engineering career field where she thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with such a diverse group of people with varying backgrounds and experiences, and learned so much from each of them. Christine’s last assignment in the Air Force was at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and that’s when she discovered the Delaware beaches. Growing up in PA, her family spent time at the Jersey shore. But once she moved to MD, she became one of those many drivers making the trek across the Chesapeake Bay Friday afternoon to visit the Delaware beaches for the weekend. Upon Christine’s separation from the Air Force, she spent a small amount of time working in Washington, D.C., but it didn’t take long before she was drawn to the quiet, slow pace of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, “the nation’s summer capital”. Christine moved to Rehoboth Beach in 1999 and finished her degree in Business at Delaware Tech. At the time she was working for a large physician organization when a friend recommended that she become a REALTOR because she loved helping people and loved looking at homes. She was reluctant for quite a while because Christine didn’t think of herself as a salesperson. But after much urging by her friend, Christine decided to get her real estate license in 2003 and has not looked back since. Christine still doesn’t think of herself as a salesperson, but rather a facilitator between buyer and seller, working toward a common goal. Christine aims to make the process as smooth and fun as possible but also educates the buyer and seller along the way so they can make the best decision possible. Christine now lives in Lewes and although she misses the mountains of PA, she thoroughly enjoys spending as much time as possible at the beach, especially Cape Henlopen State Park. Christine’s philosophy in life is that it’s too short. Never spend so much time making a living that you forget how to live.

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