Maryland Deviled Crab Cakes

Heaven knows I’ve eaten my fill of fried or broiled deviled crab in the shell at seafood houses along the Carolina and Florida coasts, but only in a couple of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay restaurants have I encountered (and swooned over) deviled crab cakes gently sautéed to a golden finish. “Egg white,” one cook informed me when I asked how she made her cakes so light, “and not too many bread crumbs—inside or outside the patties.” The only problem with eating crab cakes that have been correctly “deviled” is that, afterward, you might find ordinary crab cakes bland by comparison. I like to pat this mixture into tiny rounds and, in fine Southern style, serve the cakes at cocktail parties—with or without tartar or mustard sauce.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 large egg white
  • teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 2 scallions (part of green tops included), minced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
  • 1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Method

In a bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, mayonnaise, and egg white till well blended. Add the dry mustard, Worcestershire, lemon juice, Tabasco, scallions, bell pepper, and salt and stir till well blended. Gently fold in the crabmeat and ½ cup of the bread crumbs till well blended.

Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and shape each into an oval patty. In a small bowl, combine the remaining bread crumbs with the melted butter, mix well, and turn each patty in the mixture to coat lightly.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil and the 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat, add the crab cakes, and cook till lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side. Drain briefly on paper towels and serve immediately.

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