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~ Crab-ilicious: The Maryland Crab Cake Sandwich ~

6a0120a8551282970b017c31d750c3970bAs a foodie from Happy Valley Pennsylvania, I'm a bit afraid to post this recipe.  Here's why:  If you've ever traveled to the areas in and around the Chesapeake Bay (Annapolis and/or Baltimore, Maryland, or, the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area in general),  even if you are not a foodie, from white-linen restaurants to roadside stands, crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches are everywhere.  Not only that, if you ask any of the locals where to find the best crab cake or crab cake sandwich, you'll find they are fiercely loyal to their favorite place (and be prepared to listen, because they are going to tell you why), and, you'll rarely get the same answer twice.

Over the years, I've had the pleasure of eating many crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches in Maryland.  I can honestly say I've never encountered one I didn't like.  While they all tasted a bit different, it was the simple similarity of them that struck me:  lots of sweet, fresh, jumbo lump crabmeat with very little filler (usually fresh breadcrumbs or saltine cracker crumbs), a bit of mayonnaise, tangy mustard, occasionally some hot sauce and an egg or two to bind it all together.  Most are fried, some are broiled, and the sandwiches are served on everything from sliced white bread to grilled chiabatta, with lettuce, a slice of tomato and a tangy sauce.

Faidley-s-raw-barNow, back to why I'm a bit afraid to post this recipe.  The last time I was in Baltimore (which was 3-4 years ago) I had what I thought was the best crab cake sandwich I ever tasted.  It was at a place called Faidley's located in Lexington Market.  Founded by John Faidley, Sr. in 1886, this still-family-run business is one of the oldest seafood restaurants in the Chesapeake region.

IMG_1110The crab cake itself was loaded with jumbo lump crabmeat, crispy on the outside, flaky and tender on the inside, and spiced so as to let the crab meat shine through.  It was served atop 2 slices of soft, cottony "Wonder"-type bread with a lettuce leaf and a thick juicy slice of tomato. Besides all of the above, here's why I proclaim this to be the best crab cake:  The little bit of filler that was used was crushed saltine crackers, not breadcrumbs.  I am a lover of saltines in place of breadcrumbs in all fish cakes, so, for me, their crab cake sandwich was love at first bite.  

Note:  I do not proclaim my crab cake sandwich to be better, just pretty darn close!

220px-BancroftHallThis Saturday, Penn State is playing Navy at home in Happy Valley's own Beaver Stadium.  The USNA is a very prestigious institution.  It is the second-oldest of the USA's five service academies and educates officers for both the Navy and Marine Corps. Established in 1845, and located in Annapolis (the capital of Maryland and once temporary capital of the United States), it is full of rich history and tradition. Their mascot is a ram, and I've heard it said their arch-rival, Army, roasts a goat for that annual tailgate.  I wouldn't want anyone roasting a lion in PSU's honor, so, I'm taking the high road.  In honor of all those handsome midshipmen and beautiful midshipwomen, I'm cooking up some Maryland crab cake sandwiches.

For my all-time favorite crab cake sandwiches:

IMG_1000For the crab cakes:

1  large egg, at room temperature

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1  teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce

1/2  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon dry English mustard

1/2  teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1  cup crushed saltine crackers, crushed not crumbs, about 24 saltines

1/4  cup minced fresh parsley

1  pound jumbo lump crabmeat, the best available

corn oil, for frying crab cakes

For the crab cake sandwiches:

8  slices Wonder-type sandwich bread, super fresh

4  large, soft lettuce leaves

4  large, thick, slices of garden-fresh tomatoes

4  sprigs of parsley, for garnish

4  lemon wedges, for garnish (& a spritz of lemon juice)

cayenne peppersauce, served tableside for dipping and drizzling, your favorite brand

IMG_0938~ Step 1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, mayonnaise, cayenne pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, Old Bay Seasoning and sugar, until smooth.

Note:  This is my favorite blend of flavors, but feel free to taste and adjust the seasonings to suit your palate!

IMG_1010~ Step 2.  Place the saltines in a large food storage bag and seal closed.  Using a rolling pin, process until crushed into small pieces. When it comes to making crab cakes, you do not want fine crumbs.

IMG_1016~ Step 3. Fold the crackers into the mayo mixture.

IMG_1028~ Step 4.  Gently fold the parsley and the crabmeat into the cracker mixture until thoroughly combined. The crabmeat must remain in large lumps.  

IMG_1030~ Step 5. Set aside to rest,15-20 minutes.

Note:  This rest period is important. It will give the crushed crackers time to absorb moisture and soften, which is "the glue" that holds the crab cakes together.  You will now have about 1 1/2 pounds of total crab cake mixture.

IMG_1037~ Step 6.  Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with parchment paper. Divide the crab mixture into four equal parts.  If you have a kitchen scale, this will be 6-ounces each. Form the crab cakes by hand, gently but firmly compressing them between the palms of your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 - 8 hours prior to frying.  Do not remove from refrigerator prior to frying.

IMG_1065 IMG_1061~ Step 7. Place 1/8" of oil in a 12" skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the crab cakes and fry, until golden brown on both sides, turning only once, about 3 minutes per side.



~ Step 8.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and rest, about 5 minutes.  

~ Step 9.  Serve atop white bread with lettuce leaves, sliced tomato, garnished with a lemon wedge and your favorite hot sauce to the side (as pictured at the top of this post).



Crab-ilicious:  The Maryland Crab Cake Sandwich:  Recipe yields 4 large sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  whisk; 1-gallon food storage bag; rolling pin; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; plastic wrap; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; large nonstick spatula; paper towels

IMG_0997Cook's Note:  Don't have the time to make crab cakes?  Too tired to make crab cakes?  Just want a really easy, delicious substitute for crab cakes?  Try ~ Crab-ilicious! Maryland Lump Crab Imperial ~, in Categories 1, 9, 14, 17 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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