Thursday, September 2, 2010

Crab Cakes

What took me so long to break down and finally make a crab cake? I've lived in Baltimore for close to three years and last night was my first ever made from scratch. I bought the crab meat a few days ago. I had been keeping it on an ice bath in the fridge. The expiration date said use by 9/4 so I had three whole days left. The meat smelled fresh and sea like too. Not fishy, which is always a bad sign. Sadly, I didn't notice the crab was from North Cacalacky until today. I'd much rather buy local Chesapeake Bay crab meat.  This is one pound of back fin crab. It was around $12.00. Lump is much more expensive.

I have had the great honor of getting to know one of Baltimore's most beloved chefs, John Shields over the last two and a half years. We've had countless "meetings" at his restaurant Gertrude's. I've traveled with him and his partner twice. We hosted book club at his restaurant. And yet this is the very first time I've made his crab cake, or any crab cake for that matter. 

John just did an event for my company where he taught our guests how to make a crab cake from the crab to the cake. We literally picked crabs at the table and watched John do a great demonstration. It was such a blast and he is such a sweetheart in person. But frankly, I was more nervous about the guests, the details of buses, hotels and other event planner stresses. I   was checking the door for an important dignitary and honestly didn't pay attention to the demo.

John was in LA with me at a trade show and made crab cakes in our booth promoting Baltimore. John Gilligan, his adorable partner was his sous chef and helper extraordinaire. They are such a great team.  I have observed John cooking crab cakes for the past two summers and once on a bus to DC.  And finally, today I pulled out my signed copy of his Chesapeake Bay Cooking cookbook and went to town. I'm so embarrassed it took me this long.


John named his restaurant after his grandmother Gertrude Cleary who "hailed from Greenmount Avenue." This is the Gertie Crab Cake with a few changes, based on another one of his recipes and what I had in the kitchen.

1 egg
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (I forgot this actually)
1 teaspoon Chesapeake seasoning (I used Old Bay, and I think John adds extra fennel in his mojo spice)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco-I used the green guy since that is all we had and I added 4 dashes

Whip this all together until frothy. I love that I actually got this action shot. A bit of a challenge as I am right handed. 

Gently fold together with the pound of crab meat.

I added 6 Ritz crackers. His recipe called for saltine crackers but we had Ritz.

Mash them up.

Fold together. I also added a teaspoon of fresh, flat leaf parsley.

John gives two options of cooking in the book. Butter is always better! This is a mixture of about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter.

He suggests that you chill the mixture for an hour after forming the cakes. I put the mixture in the freezer for 15 minutes, then formed the cakes, and sauteed them. Worked perfectly!

I added a little more Old Bay while cooking.

I should have picked through the crab meat for shells. You can see a few white pieces in this shot. I should have known better. When I was working at the Reagan Building in DC in 1998 I was a Catering Manager. As part of my cross training I picked through pounds of lump crab meat searching for shells during a morning in the kitchen. I forgot how many shells are in these containers. That is why it is so expensive to order them in restaurants. The labor is crazy!

Instead of Tartar Sauce I came up with something crazy brilliant, in my opinion. I added Momma's Ripe Tomato Pickle to Mayo. For my deep south friends, you may call Ripe Ta-may-ta Pickle Chow Chow. I wish I could tape Momma saying it. She has the best accent. It was such a cool combo and great with the crab cake. Ripe Tomato Remoulade is now born!

I sauteed the cakes on each side on a low heat for approximately 7 minutes each. It took that long for them to brown, and you want to make sure they are hot through because of the egg.

So E finally got a cake from me this week.

Thanks to John and John for constantly being rays of sunshine in my work life. I'm blessed to call you all friends and dish about the Real Housewives during our "meetings". Look forward to helping you set up your own blog John so we can hear all about your new cookbook.


JG said...

God luv ya' Miss Nelle! Know the loving feeling is mutual!

John Shields said...

Wow! This is the first of your blogs I've seen. Thanks for whipping up my grandmother's crab cakes. She would be SO happy. The Ritz crackers are brilliant. I can't wait to read more and more. You are one incredible blogger!

Nelle Somerville said...

You boys are making me blush!!! xoxo

Cindy said...

Looks absolutely delish!!