Right! A couple of important announcements before we start cooking...
Firstly, I have it on good authority that this recipe which you are about to read is a blasphemous abomination to all seafood-loving Marylanders and perhaps to the entire Atlantic seaboard*. Under no circumstances should anyone waste premium crabmeat on this recipe. But what do I know? I am from Chicago!
Secondly, deep frying can be dangerous as it involves a large amount of very hot oil. Always wear long sleeves and an apron when you are deep frying. Ladies, I know it turns your man on when you are frying that bacon topless but please, don't!
For your deep frying I recommend using a cast iron Dutch oven. Any thick pot will work but I prefer cast iron because it has excellent heat retention. If you do not have one, I also recommend buying a wire mesh scooping ladle for extracting the food from the oil.
2 lbs. fingerling potatoes (or any potato suitable for frying)
16oz crab meat
1 very large sweet yellow onion
4 stalks of celery
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp stone ground brown mustard (not the yellow kind)
2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
2 tbsp garlic powder
1-2 tbsp sea salt (to taste)
6 oz Panko breadcrumbs
24 oz. high temperature frying oil (corn, canola, or if you are really hardcore, lard or beef tallow)
Start by preparing your potatoes. Cut them lengthwise so that they are more or less the size and shape of steak fries. Fingerlings are thin-skinned potatoes and I prefer to leave the skins on.
Once your potatoes are cut and put aside, chop your onion and celery into very fine pieces. Nobody wants lumpy crabcakes with big chunks of onion and celery, do they?
After chopping the onions and celery, heat a skillet to medium heat. Add a tablespoon of your oil to the skillet and sauté the onions and celery until the onions are translucent.
While the onions and celery are cooking, get a large bowl and into it put your eggs, crabmeat, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, Old Bay seasoning and sea salt. Stir it up a bit and then add the cooked onions and celery.
A handful at a time, fold in the Panko breadcrumbs to the mix by hand until the breadcrumbs have absorbed just about all of the liquids in the mix. They should be firm, you don't want these falling apart on you when you cook them. Also, don't put all of the breadcrumbs into the bowl, you will need to save some for later!
Make patties out of the crabcake mixture by hand. I recommend that each crabcake weigh no more than four ounces. This recipe should produce ten crabcakes of this weight.
OK, up until this point you have been making fairly traditional Maryland-style crabcakes. Here is where you shall go horribly wrong!
Empty your remaining breadcrumbs that you saved into the bowl and roll each crabcake into the breadcrumbs until they are completely covered and no more breadcrumbs will stick to their surface. You are now the perpetrator of a heinous crime to crustaceous cuisine!
Set your range to high and heat your oil in the Dutch oven. Heat in deep frying is critical. Physics are involved here! The whole point of deep frying is that the oil should be hot enough to continuously steam out the liquids in your food. While the steaming liquid is escaping the food, the oil cannot enter the food.
If the oil drops below this temperature, the steaming liquids do not escape and the oil begins to saturate the food which results in soggy heavy oily nastiness instead of crunchy golden goodness with warm starchy fluffiness inside.
This is why it is important not to crowd your pot: too much food in the oil will drop the temperature below our frying temperature. Don't crowd the pot and take your time when deep frying and your efforts shall be rewarded.
But how do you know when your oil is hot enough? I employ the wooden spoon test. Stick the tip of a wooden spoon in the oil, if you see steam bubbles escaping from the submerged wood, your oil is hot enough to fry!
Begin to fry your potatoes, taking care not to splatter the oil. After several minutes, you should begin to see your spuds begin to turn golden brown. Once they have reached your desired color, use your wire mesh scooper to remove the potatoes from the oil, giving them a shake to remove excess oil. Transfer them to a basket lined with paper towels. Give the potatoes a generous shake of sea salt and start the next batch.
Two pounds should require three batches. Keep your eye on that heat! Canola and corn oils have high smoke points but if you start to see it smoke, turn the heat down!
When your potatoes are done and you have spoiled you appetite by eating a whole serving already, prepare thyself to commit a blasphemy upon the Chesapeake: into the oil go your Panko coated cakes!
You should be able to get five cakes into a Dutch oven. They will brown up much faster than the potatoes so keep a constant eye on them. Resist the urge to poke and move them about lest they come apart on you. That would be bad. At most, gently flip the crabcakes once with a pair of tongs to ensure that both sides have browned.
That’s it! Serve everything immediately. I recommend a strong ale like Anchor Steam or an IPA to wash it all down or maybe just a good ginger ale like Reed’s for the kids!
* This controversy actually happened with much hilarity, involving NanceMuse, IWhoSawTheFace and myself, among others. You should read what went down!