So I’ve made some crab cakes in my day. I’ve made them pan-fried, I’ve made them on the grill, and I’ve made them broiled. Old Bay, curry, sundried tomato roasted garlic, fresh herbs, smoked paprika, you name it; and I’ve probably used it in a crab cake recipe.
But I haven’t made these crab cakes.
And there’s something about making seafood while you’re actually, you know, at the sea that just seems to make it taste better. Enter Wildwood By-the-Sea: Nostalgia & Recipes, by Anita S. Hirsch, a Christmas gift from my dad last year.
I’ve pretty much spent at least a week in Wildwood, NJ, every year since I’m old enough to remember doing things like trying to eat seashells and feeding the gulls pieces of leftover grilled chicken. And I figure in that time, I’ve tried just about every crab cake on the island.
But I apparently overlooked the deviled crab cakes at Dock Street Seafood, an iconic fish market at Otten’s Harbor, formerly known as Carlson’s. According to the cookbook, the market began life as the Union Fish Market, started by a group of Swedish men. In 1958, the market was purchased by John and Clara Carlson and expanded to include an ice cream shop and takeout seafood department. Rick Hoff and Warren White, one-time employees of the Carlsons, bought the place in 1985 and changed the name to Dock Street Seafood.
The crab cake recipe is one of Grandma Carlson’s, which she used to make for the takeout service at the store. I have to say, I’m always a little wary of anything with the word “deviled” in it when it comes to seafood, even though I know in culinary terms it generally just refers to a dish that is highly seasoned or strongly savory. In practice, though, deviled often seems to equal tons of mayo, which isn’t really my cup of tea.
But these were deviled in the true culinary definition: well-seasoned, savory, and all around delicious.
Mom Mom Carlson’s Deviled Crab Cakes
1 lb lump or backfin crabmeat
12 tablespoons butter
¾ cups unbleached flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dried parsley (I used fresh here)
1 teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon onion salt or powder
½ teaspoon garlic salt or powder
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (I subbed plain Greek yogurt)
oil for frying (I’d recommend peanut or coconut)
Melt butter in pan. Add flour and stir until combined. While still on low heat, add milk slowly, stirring until well combined. Add lemon juice, sherry, Worcestershire sauce and stir well. Add parsley, mustard, and other spices. (From me: throw in a teaspoon of Old Bay here if you dig it.) Continue stirring and heating until thick. Remove from heat and pour over crabmeat. Add mayonnaise (or yogurt) and stir until well combined. Refrigerate, and then shape into cakes. (The smaller the cake, the easier they are to fry. This is not a recipe that lends itself to giant crab cakes.) Dip in cracker meal (or cornmeal), egg, then breadcrumbs and pan fry or deep fry until brown. My advice, as with frying anything, is to work in small batches and used a slotted spatula to slide the cakes onto a paper towel laden plate when you remove them from the pan or fryer.