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08/17/2018

~ My Maryland Crabcake, Tomato & Mayo Sandwich ~

IMG_1696When I'm in Maine, you'll find me eating a lobster roll with potato chips.  When I'm in Florida, I'll be ordering a blackened mahi-mahi sammie topped with mango salsa.  When I'm at home here in Happy Valley, I'm feasting on Pennsylvania sweet corn, Jersey tomatoes and Maryland crab cakes.  When I enter my kitchen carrying a few fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes, the first thing I do is grab the Hellmann's, get out the Sunbeam and make a good old-fashioned tomato and mayo sandwich.  As much as I adore this down-home Summer indulgence, there is one thing I like more:  a tomato-and-mayo sandwich with a big, fat, freshly-fried Maryland-style crab cake on it. Serve it up with a cob of in-season Pennsylvania sweet corn -- baby, I'm in foodie heaven.

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, you can't help but notice that from white-linen restaurants to roadside stands, crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches are everywhere -- more specifically, Maryland blue crab cakes and blue crab sandwiches.  There's more.  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.  For those who live in Maryland, eating Chesapeake blue crab is practically a religion.

IMG_1698I've eaten many crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches in Maryland. I've never encountered one I didn't like.  While all are a bit different, it's their  similarities that struck me:  lots of sweet, jumbo lump crabmeat with little filler (saltine crackers, not breadcrumbs), a bit of mayo, dry mustard, Worcestershire and Frank's RedHot pepper sauce, and, an egg or two to bind it all together. All contain parsley, none contain celery, onion or bell pepper -- zero. Most are pan-fried, some are broiled, and they're served on everything from sliced white bread to brioche to chiabatta, with lettuce, tomato and a mayo-based sauce.

6a0120a8551282970b017d3c043c34970cFaidley's is a seafood restaurant in Baltimore's Lexington Market.  This still-family run business was founded by John Faidley, Sr. in 1886, making it one of the oldest in the Chesapeake Bay region.  Via a tip from a local, Joe and I wandered in there in 1996.  I ordered the crab cake sandwich and it was love at first bite -- the best one I'd ever tasted.  Imagine my glee when I found out that if you ask, they'll give you a copy of the recipe (nowadays, it's on the internet).  It seems their crab cakes are so popular, to prevent copycats from sharing inferior versions, they simply hand out their real-deal recipe.

For four big, fat, freshly-fried Maryland-style crab cakes:

IMG_1592For the crab cakes:

1  large egg, at room temperature

1-2  teaspoons Frank's RedHot cayenne pepper sauce, to taste

1  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  cup mayonnaise, your favorite brand

1  teaspoon Colman's dry English mustard

1  teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

1  tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1  teaspoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

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

1  pound jumbo lump crabmeat, preferably Maryland blue crab, the best available

corn or peanut oil oil, for frying crab cakes

IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641~Step 1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, RedHot and Worcestershire.  Whisk in the mayonnaise, followed by the mustard, Old Bay, parsley flakes, sugar and salt.  A creamy and tangy mayonnaise-based sauce will have formed.  FYI:  Skip the egg and incorporate 1/2 cup more mayo and you've got a stellar seafood-sandwich topper.

IMG_1632 IMG_1632 IMG_1632 IMG_1632~Step 2.  Place  saltines in a food storage bag and seal.  Use your fingertips to break crackers into chunky pieces, then, using a rolling pin, process until crushed into small pieces. When making crab cakes, fine crumbs aren't desirable, so don't be inclined to use a food processor.

IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653~Step 3.  Fold the crackers into the mayo mixture. Add and gently fold the crabmeat into the cracker mixture until thoroughly combined, doing your best not to mash the lumps out of the crabmeat.  Set crab cake mixture aside to rest,15-20 minutes.

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

IMG_1668 IMG_1668 IMG_1668 IMG_1668~Step 4.  Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with parchment. Divide crab mixture into four parts. Using a kitchen scale, they'll be 6-ounces each. Form crab cakes by hand, into 3/1/2-4"-round discs, by gently but firmly compressing them between palms of hands.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2-4 hours or overnight.  Do not remove from refrigerator prior to frying.  Just prior to frying the crab cakes (as directed in the next step), prep the garnishes (as listed below).

IMG_1682 IMG_1682 IMG_1682 IMG_1682~Step 5.  Place 1/8" of corn or peanut oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the crab cakes and fry, until golden brown on both sides, turning only once, about 3-3 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and rest, about 3-4 minutes prior to serving hot.

For four crab cake sandwiches & the assembly: 

IMG_1596For the crab cake sandwiches:

8  slices Wonder-type sandwich bread, super fresh, 2 per sandwich

8  large, soft Bibb lettuce leaves, 2 per sandwich

4-8  large, thick, slices of garden-fresh tomatoes, 1-2 per sandwich depending upon the size of the tomato

4  large, 3 1/2"-4"-round crab cakes, from above recipe, 1 per sandwich

mayonnaise, for drizzling, dolloping or slathering, your favorite brand

4  sprigs fresh parsley, for garnish

4  lemon wedges, for garnish and a spritz of lemon juice

sweet corn, for a highly-recommended accompaniment (optional)

~ Step 1.  In the order listed, assemble the sandwiches and serve accompanied by sweet corn.

Nothing fancy.  Just fantastic.

IMG_1700Here's lookin' at 'cha:

IMG_1719Try my Crunchy Crabmeat Crostini w/Secret Seafood Sauce too:

IMG_1872Mel's Crab Cake, Tomato & Mayonnaise Sandwich:  4 large Maryland-style crab cake sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  wire whisk; large rubber spatula; 1-gallon food storage bag; rolling pin; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; kitchen scale; plastic wrap; 12" nonstick skillet; spatula; paper towels; cutting board; serrated tomato knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d297c03f970cCook's Note:  As a gal who loves deli-, tuna- and egg-salad sandwiches, I am never far from my mayo.  During the picnic and tailgate season, when side-dishes like macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw and deviled eggs reign supreme, I purchase big jars, in two-packs.  When our garden tomatoes are ripe, I could eat a freshly-picked sliced-tomato sandwich, on white bread, with a big slather of mayonnaise, every day. There's more.  I can't imagine my life without mayo-based tartar and remoulade sauces, or, oh my Thousand Islands salad dressing, and, I'm very proficient at making homemade mayonnaise.  I know my mayo: ~ Spreads go Bread to Bread:  Hellmann's vs Duke's ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

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