Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Deconstructed Crab Cake Sandwich and Suggested Wine Pairing


The crabs are in!  Last weekend was spent on the water in Southern Maryland and I am happy to report we (by we, I mean Chef Sue) caught crabs!  Last year was a dismal year for crabs, but this year is already shaping up to be a banner year.  With fresh catch in hand, I decided it was time to do something interesting with my little crustacean friends.

My inspiration for this recipe comes from my true amazement of the chefs I watch on television who take a common dish, deconstruct it, and build something new, refreshing, and creative.  For this recipe I started with the idea of a crab cake sandwich.  A crab cake sandwich is comprised of a bun, a crab cake, a slice of tomato, some lettuce, and tartar sauce.  My approach was to use garlic bread instead of the bun.  The tomato and lettuce says salad to me, so the crab cakes lie on a bed of salad, and I took artistic license and converted the tartar sauce to dressing for the salad.  The crab cakes remain unmodified with the exception of size and form – I decided to go with slider size crab cakes as a better proportion for their bed of salad.

Crab on La Orchilla

I did not make my traditional wine pairing with this recipe, but rather just grabbed a bottle off the shelf.  I would recommend either a Chardonnay, refreshing Pino Grigio, or Viognier with this recipe.  The dressing already has plenty of acid, so the acidity of the wine is not a concern – the dish is pretty well balanced.  Due to time constraints I did not have the opportunity to photograph this dish.  I’m sure I will be preparing it again and promise to do some shooting and share with you.  In the mean time, some pre-crab cake subjects will have to do.


Salad Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (remove stems)
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 medium red onion diced
  • 2 ears fresh sweet corn (buttered, seasoned, and grilled under the broiler or on the grill - until you get some color on the kernals). Once slightly charred, cut kernals from the cob.
  • 1 pink grapefruit (skinned, yes even the inside membrane - cut into wedges then halve)
  • Finely minced Parsley for garnish

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Easy as making salad.
  2. Because I used fresh spinach, a thorough wash was necessary followed by patting dry. Too much water and your salad won't be any fun. You could also substitute the fresh spinach with a half bag of baby spinach leaves.
  3. Toss the salad ingredients.
  4. Whisk the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad when plating.

Crab Cake


  • 1 lb jumbo lump crab meat
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch of finely diced green onions
  • 1/2 of a small onion - diced
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 to two cups bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons of butter


  1. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.
  2. Add Old Bay seasoning, cayenne and add fresh ground pepper to taste and stir until mixture is well blended.
  3. Add the green onions, diced onion, parsley and mayonnaise.
  4. Role up your sleeves and use your hands to gently fold in the crab meat and breadcrumbs. This is a critical part of the operation with respect to the quantity of breadcrumbs. First, if you have some stale bread hanging around the kitchen, use it. The point is to avoid using pre-seasoned bread crumbs that might add unexpected flavors. The quantity is also important. You need to add enough bread crumbs to absorb much of the liquid leaving you with something that is easily formed into patties before heading to the skillet. On the other hand, you want to use as few bread crumbs as possible - the crab is the star, and breadcrumbs can dilute all that crabby goodness.
  5. Divide the crab meat into golfball size balls - I used an ice cream scoop. The idea is to make something like crab sliders rather than full patties.
  6. If you have enough time, it is best to cover with plastic and refrigerate for about an hour before cooking.
  7. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and adjust heat to medium low. Sauté crab balls about 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. The heat is important. The idea is to keep it low enough to cook all the way through without overcooking the outside.  I listed 4 tablespoons of butter in the ingredients because due to the size of my skillet, I had to make two runs to sauté all the crab – in other words, 2 tablespoons for the first batch and then another 2 for the second batch.
  8. While sautéing the crab balls, have your assistant prepare some garlic bread. I did this by cutting a baguette in half, lathering with butter and minced galic, then putting it under the broiler until toasted (thanks Chef Sue!).
  9. Plate and dress the salad. Artistically place three crab balls on the salad and enjoy.

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