When I was in college, I took a spring break scuba-diving trip off the coast of St. Eustatius, a tiny little island a hop-skip-and-jump away from the better-known St. Martin. It was a carefree week of exploring long-lost shipwrecks, sipping on homemade piña coladas, and nursing a serious sunburn.
I was staying in the guest house of a local woman who hosted divers from around the world. Her accommodations were relaxed and hospitable, as if it was your own grandmother's house. There were Dutch-style doors in my bedroom, which allowed the nosy pet rooster to pop in on his own accord, as well as a freestanding outdoor shower in the middle of an abundant rose garden (oh, what I would do to have that shower now). There was even a furry tarantula taking up residence in my bathroom. It was pure bliss. (Well, except for the whole spider-in-the-bathroom part.)
On the last day of my vacation, I happened to notice a tattered recipe for "Statia (as the island is known to locals) Crab Cakes" taped to the refrigerator door. I quickly copied it down, knowing it would make a long-lasting souvenir. Unfortunately, when I tried to replicate the recipe in my ill-equipped sophomoric kitchen, I ended up with crumbly and disgusting mush. (Looking back, I probably used canned crab. That explains so much.) My cooking skills have come a long way since then, as has my crab cake recipe.
These crab cakes are all about the crab. A little bit of mayonnaise, panko, and an egg keep it all together, and the bell peppers and scallions add some fresh flavor and texture. This recipe is easy enough for a weeknight meal, but special enough for entertaining. I just so happened to make these for my dad last week and he declared them "the best he'd ever had." I just might have to agree.
Crab Cakes with Rémoulade
serves 4 (makes 10 crab cakes)
For the crab cakes:
1 pound lump crab meat
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
2 green onions, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup panko crumbs, plus additional for dredging
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Lemon wedges, for garnish
For the rémoulade:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sweet relish
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish sauce
Couple dashes of hot sauce
Squeeze of lemon
For the crab cakes, combine the crab meat, bell peppers, and green onions in a large bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix gently until well-combined. Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup, scoop out crab mixture and form into a patty with your hands. Dredge the cakes in additional panko crumbs until completely covered. Arrange the cakes on a sheet pan and chill until ready to cook.
Heat a few glugs of canola or safflower oil in a large aluminum or cast iron skillet over medium-high to high heat. Cook crab cakes (in two batches if necessary, adding more oil as needed) until crispy and light golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Keep the crab cakes hot in a warm oven, if desired. Serve with a lightly dressed arugula salad, a couple of lemon wedges, and a dollop of rémoulade.
For the rémoulade, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and chill for at least 4 hours. Adjust seasonings to suit personal taste, if desired.
(Image credits: Nealey Dozier)