On Monday I was in Baltimore for the American Alliance of Museums‘ annual conference. Before I get to the recipe, allow me to dork out on museums for a bit. I felt so lucky that I got to attend, because registration is a little expensive by my standards. But, my job is awesome and let our department share time at the conference. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people excited to meet each other and learn about new museums. In the presentations I learned interesting advice to use at some undetermined point in the future, I listened to energizing recollections of first-museum-visits, and I heard inspiring stories that I could not wait to take back to the office and immediately apply to my current projects. I also had a museum related celebrity sighting. Across a hallway I saw Nina Simon, which I’m sure means nothing to most of you. But if you’re a museum geek then you know she’s kind of great and well-known. And so I saw her and in my head was all, “gasp! It’s Nina Simon!” But I couldn’t think of anything to say except for, “I read your book,” so I left her alone to enjoy the conference. And overall it was awesome. Three years ago I left my home base to move to New York and get a degree in Museum Studies, and so it felt gratifying to actual be a professional, with an actual job, who can actually use the information I learn. Awesome.
But enough about museums. Another reason Monday was great was because I was in Baltimore. I love Baltimore. Baltimore is my hometown. I grew up just north of the city. I attended school in Baltimore for 11 years. I celebrated birthdays and rang in many New Years at the Inner Harbor. I root for the Ravens, no matter where I’ve lived. And I got married in Baltimore. I’ve always had an affinity for Baltimore, but I’ve become a little crazier in the last few months. My parents recently moved to Connecticut, and as a result I’ve become a bit nostalgic for my younger days and a little fierce about holding on to my Baltimore identity.
And one of the ways I identify with Baltimore is through food – both the good and the less-good. To start with the less-good, Ryan and I were in North Carolina last month at a beer festival, when a giant Natty Boh (National Bohemian) mascot walked by. “I NEED A PICTURE!!!” I yelped. I ran after him, pushed through the crowds and made Ryan snap a picture. There’s a drunk weirdo in the background, but it’s my picture with an “important” Baltimore icon. I also love Berger cookies, which if you haven’t had one, you should drive to Baltimore and try it now. Unless you don’t like chocolate, then you probably have larger problems to deal with. Also, if you live in Arlington, the Italian store on Lee Highway sometimes sells them. Basically Berger’s are short bread cookies drenched in creamy chocolate fudge. Sounds awesome right? I was recently at my 10-year high school reunion and a server came out with a plate and the alumni swarmed and devoured. Ryan looked me like, “they’re good, but they’re not that good.”
But what Baltimore is best known for, is Old Bay and crab cakes. Old Bay is my go-to spice. Last week I was helping my friend Charlotte prepare dinner and we had this conversation:
Charlotte: I have all these fancy spice mixes. What should I put on the tater tots?
Me: Old Bay
Charlotte: That’s not one of the fancy spices. But ok.
I will put Old Bay on lots of things. Broccoli, french fries, eggs. I’ve even been pondering a way to make my own recipe for Old Bay steamed shrimp sushi. So, as I left Baltimore and drove home, I wanted to hold on to the day’s good feelings. I decided to make some crab cakes with lots of Old Bay. Isn’t Ryan lucky that my whims and nostalgia result in crab cakes?
Now, just like when you make burgers or meatloaf or sauce, it’s all about the balance of seasonings. And so below is what I did, and what I thought tasted good. Feel free to change the proportions or leave things out as it appeals to your tastes. The great things about crab meat though is that when you buy it at the grocery store it general comes in the tin and it’s already steamed. I recommend mixing the crab and seasonings first then do a taste test. If you like it, move on to adding the eggs and bread crumbs. If you don’t like it, add until you get a flavor you like. Without further ado, here’s the recipe:
1 pound crab meat
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 – 1 1/2 tsp of Old Bay
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley (you could use fresh too)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 egg beaten
2+ tbsp bread crumbs
1. In a medium bowl mix crab meat, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay, mustard powder, parsley, salt and mayonnaise together. Once it’s thoroughly mixed do a taste test.
2. Mix in the egg and 2 tbsp bread crumbs. If it seems too liquidy add more bread crumbs one tbsp at a time. What you want is a patty that will hold together well when you put it in the pan and when you flip it. You can add a lot of bread crumbs, but it’s a crab cake, so obviously you want it to be more crabby. If you think it’s getting too dry, you can add some more mayo.
3. Form patties. I made 5 big ones and 1 small one.
4. If you have time, let the patties set in the fridge for 20 minutes.
5. Heat a pan on medium. Fry until golden brown on each side. This takes less than 10 minutes total. You can also broil them in the oven until golden brown. If you’re feeling like your patties are still too sticky, you can lightly coat each side with flour. Just put a tbsp of flour on a plate and plop the patty on the plate. This will help the patty dry out a bit and stick together in the pan.
Low. The only messy part is making the patties because it makes your hands sticky. But, it takes very few dishes and utensils to make so there’s little clean up after.