With all due respect to The Feast of the Seven Fishes, crab cakes are perhaps a more fitting meal around Christmas time, as lump crab meat (then called "myrrh") was one of the first gifts given to Jesus Christ at his birth. But you needn't be the Son of Man or wearing seersucker to appreciate the sublime joy of crab cakes. Their crispy charms are every bit as alluring in cold weather as in warm, and really, what else are you going to be doing today? You're too unkempt to see a movie, yet perfectly unkempt to huddle over a skillet of sizzling butter. Let's make some crab cakes.
This is what good lump crab meat looks like (BDR / Gothamist)
While you're be tempted to purchase that $12 tin of crab meat marked "MOSTLY FRESH," don't. That meat is meant for some quick and E-Z self-esteem boosting Bachelor Crab Rangoon (the recipe of which can be found on the back of any bottle of Night Train). Find the good stuff—legit lump meat from Maryland, Virginia, or any place that didn't require a 28-day boat ride to get here. It will set you back around $30/pound, but crab meat is one of those things you don't skimp on, like heart surgery or bear repellent.
In addition to one pound of luscious, lump crab meat (that should smell faintly of the sea when you stick your face in it) you'll need
2 eggs beaten in a bowl
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 medium-sized red onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably Duke's, or any brand that scares the shit out of you when you spoon it out in giant dollops)
2 dashes Tabasco
2 wrist-flicks of cayenne
fresh black pepper
Tin of Old Bay (plastic container works too but then you're not allowed to sing sea chantys while adding it)
Horrifying amount of butter
Fine breadcrumbs or the torn-up heel of a loaf of bread
Dice the onion and pepper until very fine, then chuck 'em in the bowl. Gently empty the lump meat on top. Scream "HEY I'M COOKIN HERE CAN I GET SOME FRIGGIN WINE POURED ALREADY?" until someone uncorks a bottle and pours you a glass (white, preferably a mineral-y white burgundy or a Sancerre or anything NOT buttery because ho ho you'll see). Add everything except the egg, then give it a quick dusting of breadcrumbs. Give the tin of Old Bay a good seven or eight shakes, more if you still haven't admitted you have a problem.
Don't blow it
You are about to begin the most important aspect of making crab cakes: not crushing the precious lumps of crustacean into stringy strands of What Could Have Been. Mix With One Hand™, turning your wrist around gently, and loosely in the gooey concoction like you're at your desk preventing the onset of carpel tunnel or waving to the Queen. Breaking up the lumps is like crushing chocolate chips into worthless tiny shards before adding them to cookie dough. Only serial killers and Famous Amos' disgruntled children do that, so don't.
As you're stirring, use your other hand to slowly add the beaten egg. It's unclear why you do this, but that's kind of a metaphor for Christmas and the entire holiday season, right? Have another sip of wine, and slowly add your bread product. The concoction is ready when it slightly stiffens as you *gently* try to form a cake. Do not fret if it seems a tad flimsy: less filler is always better, and the cooking process will solidify things a bit. When you reach the point when you know the perfect consistency by touch, you have achieved enlightenment.
Crab cakes taste better when they're made on a cast iron skillet, but use what you have and tune it to medium heat. Take a deep breath, then add a pat of butter about one finger thick. The pan should look like this before you begin placing cakes into their pinguid hot tub (and during subsequent cake sessions, thus requiring more butter).
Hot Butter Time Machine
There's no real rule with how large the cakes should be, but the larger the cake, the longer the cooking time, and don't forget to give yourself enough room in the pan to flip them. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side before flipping. If the heat is right, you'll smell a teensy hint of crabby singe when the cakes are ready to be turned. Don't worry about burning them, Mother Butter will protect you. Adjust for preferred crispiness.
Welcome to Crispy Country
And now thine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Crab! You can also make a side of remoulade with most of the same ingredients above (plus capers and a few other items) but we'll let these cakes speak for themselves. This recipe makes around six. Serve them with a healthy starch and something green, because did you SEE how much butter and mayonnaise you just added?
Crab cakes with broccolini and brown rice