We love crab. Every kind of crab and in the hundreds of recipes and applications. Crab really is quite versatile. One of our favorites is crab cakes. These Cajun Crab Cakes are perfect to enjoy by themselves, as an appetizer, as Crab Cakes Benedict for brunch, and as a crab cake sandwich!
We have had crab cakes in various places that claim crab cakes are their specialty. And they really have been wonderful, from Baltimore to Charleston, Savannah and Seattle to name a few places we have tried these jewels. Some crab cakes have sauce, some are served plain and some have relish. They can be served on a plate or bun, can be deep fried, pan fried, broiled, baked or even grilled. Given our love of crab, we decided to make our own version of crab cakes through trial and error and based on what we prefer in a crab cake.
What is in a crab cake?
Crab cakes are generally nothing more than lump crab meat, breadcrumbs, eggs, a condiment (usually mustard or mayonnaise) and spices. Vegetables are common and optional. Just based on that ingredient list, you can see that the possibilities are numerous. So, let’s break it down…crab first. What type of crab should you use? Generally, blue crab is the most popular on the east and gulf coasts and Dungeness on the west coast. We’ve not had or made crab cakes with king, snow or stone crabs but you certainly could and I’m sure some people do just that. We opted for blue crab for this Cajun Crab Cake recipe as it is readily available and has a sweet taste that works perfect for crab cakes.
What about the filling?
The next thing to consider are breadcrumbs and condiments. We chose to use sourdough breadcrumbs with spectacular results. Our crab cakes have the breadcrumbs inside only, but you will often find that crab cakes are coated or breaded as well. We prefer to have the bread mixed inside the cake in small amounts – we are looking for the crab to shine without being bready or doughy. As for the condiments, we found less is more – but that is our preference. Again, we are looking for a little flavor and binding help more than anything. What we chose as our favorite was Dijon mustard. It’s smooth in both texture and taste and compliments our other chosen ingredients.
The most important achievement with crab cakes, in our opinion, is that the crab is the star and shines through the spices. If the crab cakes are bready it just doesn’t work. The egg and breadcrumb ratio is the primary thing holding this crab cake together, so it is necessary, but you just want it to be delicately bound. Once this is achieved, everything else added to the crab cake will be about flavor profiles that you desire.
What gives the crab cakes their flavor?
Vegetables and spices are the next consideration. These are Cajun Crab Cakes, so we like them to have a bit of spice to them versus trying to achieve spiciness through an added sauce. Peppers and onions made the most sense to us when deciding of vegetable additions. We also chose to sauté them ahead of time – getting a little caramelization to add flavor. In the end, we decided on red bell pepper, serrano pepper and sweet yellow onions for this. The red bell for its sweetness and color, the serrano for its spice (and predictable spice versus the common jalapeño) and the sweet onion for the onion flavor and amazing taste when it caramelizes. A shallot can deliver here as well. As for spices, we chose a Cajun seasoning blend that we really enjoy. There are so many options for Cajun seasoning and most are very good, but you could also make your own if you wish. Additionally, the use of Worcestershire is traditional and works very well in rounding out and deepening flavors. We also chose to use Louisiana hot sauce for a little added flavor and to compliment the Cajun seasoning blend. Our strong opinion is that Louisiana hot sauce (like Crystal) is much better here than Tabasco.
How do you cook crab cakes?
The final consideration is how to cook these Cajun Crab Cakes and how to serve it. To us, this was the easiest to find a clear winning formula. We wanted the crab cake to stand on its own and not be reliant on a sauce or relish, but at the same time could easily stand up to that addition. As for how to cook them – pan fry with a little butter easily won out over the other methods mentioned. Achieving that deep brown color on the exterior of the crab cake is necessary in our opinion, and extra flavor is gained as the butter browns.
Do you need to have a sauce?
As for sauces and relishes, that is also personal preference. A slaw on the side, corn relish, mango salsa, a remoulade, an herb-infused aioli or, if you insist on never growing up, ketchup can all be used. Seriously, please refrain from eating these with ketchup, or at least don’t tell anyone. The bottom line is that almost anything can be served with or on a crab cake, but remember – everything you add should complement the crab rather than cover it up or be the dominant taste on the plate.
We hope you enjoy this recipe! If you give it a try, leave a comment below or tag us @cooking_with_wine on Instagram!