Recipes for delicate cakes of minced and bound seafood are as old as, well, maritime cooking. The crab version we mostly eat today -- crab, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, eggs, seasoning and some onion, gathered up and pan-fried or broiled -- is a colonial American recipe that hasn't changed much since it was created.
|Crab Cakes at Tony P's Dockside Grill|
The perfect crab cake should include large, lump-meat pieces and be loosely packed with a minimum of bread-crumb binder. The best versions are less a disk than a scoop, lightly broiled, allowing the flavor of the crab to come through. It should be served with citrus, and the sauce -- mayonnaise, aioli -- should be a welcome flavor addition, not a way to mask dryness or sub-par crab.
While we didn't find any spots that were cooking, cracking and picking their own, what we did find was that places using a single variety -- Dungeness and Blue (Callinectes sapidus or "beautiful swimmer that is savory") -- made sure to note it. Happily those two are also Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch approved. The meat is delicate, sweeter than larger crabs, and soft. Snow and King crab -- while abundant -- are both chewy and tend to be watery and less flavorful. Trying to figure out what type of crab you're being served can be tricky. Most menus don't say because so many species are used -- and 75% of crab meat is imported, so looking for locally sourced crab cakes is a major challenge.
Normally with our top ten lists we attempt to find a wide range of prices so everyone can get something great no matter their budget. That just doesn't work here. High quality crab is rare and should be expensive until we stop over-fishing and efforts to rebuild habitats and populations fully succeed. Sorry, there's no hidden $5 gem out there -- but there are some really terrific crab cakes. Turn the page for ten of them.More »