When I was in college, I spent a spring break scuba diving 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 ship wrecks, sipping on homemade piña coladas, and nursing a serious sun burn.
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 along 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 on Father's Day last week and he declared them "the best he'd ever had". I just might have to agree.
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 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, approximately 2-3 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 dallop 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.
Related: Recipe: West Indies Crab Salad
(Images: Nealey Dozier)