Thursday, August 14, 2008

Crab Cakes

Bagged a few more crabs the other day but got seasick in the process. That's one of the risks of free-diving. Or maybe it's just my constitution. The Sound was kinda rough and visibility was terrible, so I felt lucky getting anything at all. Afterwards, waiting to pick up my kid at camp, I fell asleep in the car. Someone looking for a parking space must have seen me because they kept honking—those little half-honks, like "hey there, are you gonna move?" Pissed me off enough that I went back to sleep. I had crabs swimming around in my trunk; despite the salt head, life was good.

Anyway, peel some Dungeness crab and you'll know why it's $25/lb. in the market. It can seem like a daunting task, but once you learn the drill it's not so hard. I used crab that was already boiled, cleaned, and halved. You can see in some of the pictures that the tips of the exposed meat are slightly yellowed, an indication of previously frozen crab. This won't make any difference in your cakes; maybe Alice Waters could tell the difference but I sure can't, not if the crab has been properly frozen and thawed in a reasonable time-frame (in this case, a couple weeks).

How to Peel Dungeness Crab

Step 1: Make a tall drink, because as Lou Reed says in '69 Live, "this is gonna go on for a little settle back and pull up your cushions." My summertime choice is a boat drink, the recipe to which I'll get around to posting one of these bleary mornings.

Step 2: Take a half crab and pull off a leg segment. The best meat is where the leg joins the body, so make sure to carefully separate the segments where they're connected.

Step 3: The rest is busy work: peeling the shell and exhuming the meat. Make sure you open each knuckle—there's good meat in there. The claws may require a cracker or a swift blow from an empty beer bottle. At the end of the peeling you'll have a pile of sweet crab meat and an even larger pile—a small midden, you might say—of shell. Whatever you do, try not to get any little pieces of shell in your meat; biting into a succulent crab cake only to crunch your teeth on some annoying bit of shell detracts from the experience for obvious reasons.

Finspot's Crab Cakes

This isn't really my recipe; it's pretty standard. The key is in the meat to filler ratio. Adjust however you like, but always keep the crab as king.

1/2 large onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
parsely, chopped
1 egg
1-2 tbsp mayo
Worcestershire sauce
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup crackermeal or breadcrumbs
Old Bay seasoning

Slapping the cakes together is pretty easy in comparison to the peeling. Saute chopped onion and chopped red bell pepper in plenty of butter. (For 2 medium-sized crabs I used half a pepper and half a Walla Walla sweet onion.) Season to taste. Remove onion-pepper mixture to bowl. Add several pinches of chopped parsley, one egg, mayo, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, few shakes of Old Bay, and the juice from a half lemon. Stir together while adding crackermeal or breadcrumbs. Mix in crab last for chunky cakes. Form into patties and refrigerate on wax paper for 20 minutes or so for firmness. Lastly, saute in butter in a large frying pan, with enough room between the cakes so you can easily flip 'em; fry in batches with a smaller pan.


M said...

The parking lot logistics are as impressive as the diving ... good to hear you got those pretty crabcakes out of the deal.

Anonymous said...

care to reveal any foragable free-diving destinations in the seattle area? I'm hip to the scene around the shilshole jetty. Do you use a drysuit?

Langdon Cook said...

Audrey: I always say the trip to/from the foraging grounds is the most harrowing, especially if it involves stressed-out commuters trying to pick up their kids at camp.

Seth: I use a 4mm wetsuit, which keeps me plenty warm for an hour and change. As for destinations, I've gotten crab all over the Sound, including right in Seattle. Depends on time of year and what the crabs are up to. Right now they're in a mating frenzy, so look for structure. In the shoulder seasons you might try more open areas, including eel grass beds.

t-mos said...


your killin me with all this crab action! i need to get out to the docks.

i don't have a suit, but for future reference, what are the requirements for suitable free-dive locales? is the sound a special situation or is it doable off the oregon coast as well?

nice work on the vittles!