Wow, it’s Fast Fun Friday already! I have a great recipe for today that’s mostly Fast and definitely Fun! It’s Crab Cakes Louie! Uh huh, you’ve never heard of it, right? But maybe you’ve heard of a Crab Louie Salad? It’s a riff on that! And here’s why… ok, I’ll tell why in a second… first you just HAVE to see a picture of my crab cakes louie!
Drooling yet? Uh huh, me too, and I just ate some of these babies… so now back to the story of how and why I created the recipe…
I grew up in upstate NY, where seafood certainly isn’t as prevalent as it is in New England, but fortunately I had parents who loved lobster, crab, clams, oysters, scallops and shrimp. Fish? Not so much!
Living in a big household meant that there wasn’t a lot of spare cash for expensive items like shellfish, but my Mom and Dad made it a point to choose restaurants that served really good seafood on the few occasions when we did go out to eat. Oh sorry, I should mention that there was also the four times a year trip to La Scala’s in our hometown. It was a very economical, but excellent traditional Italian restaurant…and they served us kids free shirley temples..woot!
Oh sorry, got off the track for a second there. Back to the tale of my Crab Cakes Louie.
I grew up loving good seafood. Lobster, crab and oysters were my all time faves. So imagine my delight when, as a young Mom with 2 tiny tots, I moved to New England! Suddenly the seafood I loved so much was readily available and pretty darned cheap! Just to give you all a quick trip in my wayback machine… I used to buy fresh lobster at the docks for $1.00 a pound!
In my travels around all of New England, I ran into a restaurant serving something called Crab Louie Salad. I’d never heard of it, but it sounded light, cool and delicious for a hot summer day, so I ordered it. When it arrived all I could think was “Aha, a seafood version of Cobb Salad!”. I gobbled it down, refusing to share any of the succulent lumps of crab meat – selfish of me I know, but oh well… now you know how I am when it comes to my seafood.
At home, I usually turned crab meat into crab cakes, because it stretched the meat a bit further so that I could feed my growing boys.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and add a grown daughter, living near Portland. She was coming home for Christmas and called me to ask if I had any recipes for Dungeness Crab. I didn’t, but I’m fast on my feet and promptly said “Absolutely!”
During the days and nights prior to her arrival with 5 freshly caught, just cooked Dungeness Crabs, I contemplated what to do with them. I wanted something to remind me of New England, but also something West Coast style, to honor where my daughter was living and her love of vegetables (she actually flirted with being a vegan for awhile). Crossing a Crab Louie Salad with a New England Crab Cake seemed like the perfect marriage of both coasts!
Ok, another picture just to drive you nuts before I get to showing how to make this sorta Fast, definitely Fun Friday meal:
Now if, like me, you live in a part of the country where it’s nearly impossible to get, let alone afford, fresh crab, or even the really excellent refrigerated lump crab meat, then know this – it’s OK to substitute a good quality canned lump crab meat, or even *gasp* a premium flaked white crab meat in a can. The canned stuff will lack some of the flavor of fresh, but it works, so long as you treat it properly.
So let’s assume that you’re using canned lump crab meat for now. Go ahead and place the unopened cans into the refrigerator for 24 hours. Chilling the meat prior to opening it will firm it up and intensify the sweet flavors of the crab. Once that’s done, let’s make some Crab Cakes Louie:
You’ll see in the picture that I couldn’t find Lump Crab Meat at the grocer’s, so these cakes were made with fancy white crab meat, which is very fine and a bit harder to work with… <sigh>
The first thing to do is to drain the crab meat well. I like to drain it into a fine mesh strainer, then let it continue draining and dripping over a small bowl while I finely dice my celery.
Just keep chopping and dicing the celery till it’s very fine. If the pieces are too large, the crab cakes will tend to fall apart – which they do well enough all by themselves by golly!
Now pat the crab meat in the strainer with paper towels to absorb any excess liquid that remains. It should be dry to the touch. If you squeeze a small ball of it and it’s squishy, drain and pat some more! 3 cans of Lump Crab Meat will make 4 crab cakes, but if you use the fancy white flaked crab meat, you’ll need to use 4 cans – 1 per cake.
Got that all done? Excellent, time to mix up the crab cake ingredients! First up, add the crab meat to the celery:
Now add the bread crumbs, or bread crumb/parmesan cheese mixture. I use straight parmesan chees because wheat is not my friend at the moment.
Next up, add the egg, mayonnaise and seasonings, then give it all a good stir to mix everything together.
Once it’s all mixed and happy in the bowl, set it aside for 15 minutes so that the bread crumbs have time to absorb the egg and mayonnaise. If you don’t – well – you’ll have crab bits instead of crab cakes!
These are some of my favorite kitchen helpers. They're Dang Good and I love 'em!
While the crab is resting, put together the Crab Louie Dressing. Add cocktail sauce… or chili sauce and horseradish… to mayonnaise in a small bowl.
Add in the lemon juice, worcestershire sauce and pepper.
Now stir or whisk it till it’s smooth. Cover the Louie Dressing and place it in the fridge till dinner.
Alrighty then, by now the crab mixture has rested and it’s time to shape the cakes! Be firm with them. Divide the crab into 4 equal portions, then shape them into a ball. Press hard as you shape them in order to get them to stick together. Once you have 4 nice balls, flatten them into cakes. They’ll tend to split across the tops, but no worries, these gorgeous little cakes are going to rest for another 30 minutes in the fridge.
See the cracks in the tops? Totally normal! Mine are actually a bit more delicate because I’m not using bread crumbs, so yours will hold together much better, though still might show a few cracks till they come out of the refrigerator.
After they’ve chilled for 30 minutes, gently press them again and reshape them to get rid of the cracks.
Heat butter and olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat just till the butter begins to brown a bit. Add the crab cakes gently into the pan, then let them sit, untouched, for 7 minutes.
See? Even my crab cakes, without bread crumbs, look much better after chilling in the fridge! After 7 minutes cooking on the first side, VERY gently slide a thin spatula under each one, then flip quickly to the other side. If they break, don’t panic, just smush them back together and let them continue browning on the second side. Yep, sometimes they break, but we don’t care, right? It’s crab after all – succulent, sweet, tender crab!
Two of mine insisted on breaking in half. The other two held together nicely and were very cooperative…nice crab cakes…good crab cakes!
While the cakes brown on the second side, go ahead and throw together a salad to accompany them. Mine is done Cobb Salad style, with crumbled bacon, hard boiled eggs, chopped red pepper (instead of tomatoes which are nearly out of season here in Idaho) and diced avocado, all placed on top of Romaine lettuce – yummy!
Serve both the Crab Cakes Louie and the salad with the Crab Louie Dressing you made. Talk about delicious! This is a meal that’s half summer, half autumn, so it fits perfectly into September!
- 3 Cans of Lump Crabmeat
- 2 Stalks Celery
- 1 Egg
- 2 tablespoons Mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning - or ¼ teaspoon each, crushed bay leaf, paprika, black pepper and allspice
- ½ Cup Bread Crumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- For Crab Louie style sauce:
- 1 Cup Mayonnaise
- ¼ Cup Cocktail sauce (or Chili Sauce plus 1 tablespoon Horseradish)
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
- ¼ teaspoon Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- For the crab cakes
- Place the cans of crab meat into the refrigerator a day before using it in this recipe. The next day, remove it from the fridge and drain well, then place into a medium mixing bowl. Check for any bits of shell!
- Finely mince the celery by hand or use a food processor.
- Add the celery to the crab and stir well.
- Add the egg, mayonnaise, Old Bay Seasoning and ½ cup of the bread crumb mixture.
- Stir well and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- While the crab cake mixture is resting make the Crab Louie style sauce:
- For the Crab Louie Dressing:
- Stir all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate till ready to serve.
- To cook the crab cakes:
- Gently roll the cakes into a loose ball, pressing down on the ball to flatten it into a cake. You should have about 4 cakes that are 1½ inches thick. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm them.
- Melt the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron or non stick skillet.
- When the butter stops foaming and begins to brown slightly gently add the crab cakes. Cook them on one side for 7 minutes, then gently flip and cook on the other side for 7 minutes.
- Serve with the Crab Louie style sauce and a large salad for a light, refreshing meal.