If you're seeking a methodically soothing holiday kitchen activity that doesn't involve wrangling seven different fishes or stockpiling stacks of cookies that will haunt your countertop and your willpower for weeks to come, may we suggest the efficient decadence of crab cakes?

This recipe evolved from Pretty Good Excuse To Skip Church On Christmas Eve to Actual Family Tradition over the course of a decade or so. While athleisure has made amazing strides since we first published this recipe in 2012, there is a strong chance you will find yourself too unkempt and cozy to venture outside over the next few days. These are the ideal conditions for huddling over a cast iron skillet of butter, and saying goodbye to 2019.

First, a note on the most important ingredient. While you may be tempted to purchase that $12 tin of crab meat marked "MOSTLY FRESH," don't. That stuff 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. Ask your fishmonger for their honest opinion on what they have in store. 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.

We usually like the meat to be a liiiiiiiittle bit lumpier but this is solid.

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
Metal 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—just keep a stick handy
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. Look at the person closest to you and say, "Didn't we get some wine?" and they will get the hint and open the bottle (white, preferably something mineral-y and 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.

It's all coming together now.

Sarah Butler

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 carpal 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. Or like splitting a 20 at the blackjack table. Ask your grandmother.

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 (DAMN this sauvignon is balanced and refreshing and reasonably priced), 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.

What a mixture.

Crab cakes taste better when they're made on a cast iron skillet, but use what you have and put it over 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 (you'll do this again during subsequent cake sessions, but with more confidence—maniacal glee, even).

Crab cake butter.

There's no real rule with how large the cakes should be, but the larger the cake, the longer the cooking time (and the fewer the leftovers), 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 (see top photo).

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?

Yes, you'll need a salad.

All cake shots courtesy Sarah Butler. ("I love this recipe," Sarah says.)