Gertie's Crab Cakes

Gertie's Crab Cakes

Chesapeake Bay CookingGertie Cleary hailed from Baltimore's Greenmount Avenue and her cooking was legendary throughout St. Ann's parish and northeast Baltimore. Her crab cakes are my absolute favorite. I must, however, admit my bias. Gertie was my grandmother, and I grew up on these wonderful spiced morsels of crab. This recipe is in the most traditional style of Bay crab cakes. It uses a slightly spiced mixture of mayonnaise and egg, and slightly bound together with cracker crumbs.

1 egg
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Chesapeake seasoning
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1 pound backfin crabmeat, picked over
1/3 cup saltine cracker crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying (optional)
Clarified butter (see Note) and/or olive oil, for sauteing (optional)
Tartar Sauce (recipe follows) and lemon wedges, for accompaniment

Mix the egg, mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, Chesapeake seasoning, Worcestershire, and Tabasco together in a blender or mixing bowl until frothy. Place the crabmeat in a bowl and sprinkle on the cracker crumbs. Pour the egg mixture over the top. Gently toss or fold the ingredients together, taking care not to break up the lumps of crabmeat. Form the cakes by hand or with an ice cream scoop into 8 mounds about 3 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. Do not pack the mixture too firmly. The cakes should be as loose as possible, yet still hold their shape. Place the cakes on a tray or platter lined with wax paper, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking.

Pour oil into a heavy skillet to a depth of about 1 1/2 inches. Heat the oil and fry the crab cakes, a few at a time, until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted utensil to paper towels to drain. Or broil the cakes: Slip them under a preheated broiler until nicely browned, turning to cook evenly, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Or saute the cakes: Heat a small amount of clarified butter or olive oil, or a combination, in a skillet and saute the cakes, turning several times, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total cooking time.

Serve at once, with Tartar Sauce and lemon wedges on the side.

Tartar Sauce

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped dill pickle
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon dill pickle juice

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

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Excerpted from CHESAPEAKE BAY COOKING by John Shields Copyright© 1998 by John Shields. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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