Note from Mark: You’re on board with the challenge, but what should you eat? No worries. The Worker Bees and I have you covered. Every Saturday and Sunday during the 30-day challenge we’ll be bringing you some delicious Primal recipes. (Sorry, no Weekend Link Love for the next few weeks!) Enjoy!
There are certain foods that people have very strong opinions about. Often, these opinions are regionally based. If you’ve ever been stuck in the middle of an argument about New York vs Chicago pizza, you know how heated the debate can get. Crab cakes also elicit a strong emotional response. Some cooks swear by Old Bay Seasoning, others use paprika. Some cooks add red pepper, others think it’s sacrilegious to use anything more than diced celery. But across the board, one ingredient seems to remains the same: breadcrumbs. You have to add breadcrumbs to crab cakes to bind them together. Or do you? Questioning these sort of food fallacies is a common practice for modern day Groks. Yes, breadcrumbs hold crab cakes together, but the main reason they’re in crab cakes is to act as filler, so restaurants don’t have to put as much crab in your cake. Making a perfectly delicious crab cake bound together solely by egg yolks is easy to do.
First, let’s talk about fresh crab. You can buy whole crabs, but already picked meat is both easier and usually not much more expensive. Some stores also sell packaged wild-caught crab meat that is pasteurized and refrigerated and slightly less expensive. (this is much different than imitation crab, which should be avoided at all costs). For crab cakes, Dungeness Crab is the most sustainable choice and Blue Crab is a good alternative. Lump meat is the bigger chunks from the body of the crab, often lighter in color with a richer texture. It’s considered the premium part of the crab and you’ll pay premium prices for it. Claw meat has more of a shredded texture – it’s less pretty, but can also be more flavorful (and it often sells for half the price of lump meat.) This recipe uses a combination of the two, for texture and flavor.
1 pound crab meat, combination of lump and claw
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 teaspoon lemon zest (grated off the outside of a lemon)
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup olive oil
Bundle the crab in a thin dishtowel and give it a few hard squeezes to release moisture. You’ll probably be able to get a couple tablespoons of liquid to drip out.
Whisk the egg yolks. Add the shallot, celery, dill, lemon zest, hot sauce and paprika. Gently mix this into the crab. The mixture is not going to look like it will hold together, but don’t worry.
To form the crab cakes all you need is a round cookie cutter about 2 inches wide. Using a tablespoon measurement, scoop 2 generous tablespoons of crab into the cookie cutter.
Press the crab down very firmly with your fingers. Gently lift the cookie cutter.
Using this method, you should be able to make at least a dozen crab cakes. Cover the cakes and refrigerate for one hour or more. This helps the ingredients bind together.
Preheat your oven to 375. On the stovetop, heat the olive oil in a pan. When the oil starts to sizzle, use a spatula to slide the crab cakes into the pan. Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side until they are browned and crispy. Don’t put too many in the pan at once.
Use a spatula to scoop the cakes out the pan and onto a cookie sheet. Put in the oven for another six minutes to make sure they are warmed through the middle. Garnish with dill.
The most important steps in this recipe are using the cookie cutter to shape the crab cakes and refrigerating them for at least an hour before cooking. Other than that, let your regional tastes take over. Add red pepper if you like or mustard. Play around with the seasonings. But forget all about the breadcrumbs. You won’t even miss them.