The best crab cakes

The most perfect crab cake I ever had was served with a side of misery. I was in Wilmington, Delaware, interviewing for an upper management job at what turned out to be the most toxic newsroom in America at the time. Everyone from writers to editors to photographers were eager to tell me how maligned they were, how under appreciated they were and how, yes, miserable they were.

Oh, joy. But the restaurant critic took me to lunch and introduced the most exquisite crab cake I had ever eaten (while she also bitched about her job). There was literally no discernible filler in that cake. Just beautiful nubbins of crab held together by a whisper.

Needless to say I didn’t take the job but I have never forgotten the crab cake. And now after almost 20 years I have found one that matches up. It’s a recipe that Andrew Zimmern got from a Baltimore native and it, too, has no filler and only the slightest suggestion of a binder.

Crab cakes are a luxury, even with fillers. A half pound of picked lump  crab meat goes for $22. Zimmern’s recipe calls for lump but I go one grade down for just white crab for $13. Still pricey but worth it to experience ultimate crab heaven. And I did with the left overs what Zimmern suggests. Eat a crab cake cold the next morning with sliced tomatoes and Russian dressing. Breakfast of champions, indeed.

Andrew Zimmern’s Crab Cakes

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 large egg, beaten

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over

20 saltine crackers, finely crushed

1/4 cup canola oil

Lemon wedges, for serving

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce until smooth.

In a medium bowl, lightly toss the crab meat with the cracker crumbs. Gently fold in the mayonnaise mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Scoop the crab mixture into eight 1/3-cup mounds; lightly pack into 8 patties, about 1  1/2 inches thick. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the crab cakes and cook over moderately high heat until deeply golden and heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the crab cakes to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

MAKE AHEAD: The crab cakes can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight.

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