Saturday, March 7, 2015

Maryland Crab Cake with Russian Tartar Sauce ... A Crab Boil Recipe Too

     Maryland Crab Boil And Crab Cake Information
     Chesapeake Bay is the largest Blue Crab fishery that there is.  The blue crabs can be huge in this vast bay.  Every main road that is near the bay in Maryland has dozens of crab shacks where live blue crab, boiled blue crab, shelled blue crab and crab cakes can be purchased.  Some crab shacks are set up like a retail only sales store.  Most crab shacks are set up like a combination of retail crab sales and snack bar style restaurant, where fresh cooked crab can be eaten on the spot.  Some crab shacks have a small dining area, but most offer only good old fashioned stand up dining at a counter.

     The classic crab boil spice mix and crab seasoning spice mix in Maryland is "Old Bay."  Cooks and crabbers In Maryland use copious amounts of Old Bay Crab Boil spice mix when flavoring a crab boil.  After the crabs are pulled out of the poaching water, they are seasoned with a heavy amount of fine ground Old Bay Spice Mix.
     The Old Bay spices cling to the shells and inevitably the spices cling to the fingers while shelling the crab.  This might seem like a waste of spice to the uninitiated, but when eating crab Maryland style it is more than just acceptable to lick the fingers while popping bits of fresh crab meat into the mouth.
     Old Bay Spice Mix is the official crab spice mix of Maryland.  Many old school Maryland chefs do prefer to make their own crab spice mix, because it adds a personal touch.  The spice mix that the Maryland chefs make is usually modeled after the classic Old Bay flavor.
     Cajun chefs in Louisiana do the same thing and make their own Cajun Crab Boil Spice Mixes.  For many chefs, integrity means never buying pre-made or pre-mixed food products, so making their own spice mixes is the way to go.
     The three live blue crabs in the photos above were purchased at the 99 Ranch Market in Chinatown, Las Vegas.  Every Asian food market in Las Vegas offers live seafood.  I always ask where the blue crabs come from, just to make sure that they are not from suspect waters.  I used to purchase Texas blue crab, till the Gulf Of Mexico oil spill fouled up the water in that fishery.  Now I only seek blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay.
     By Maryland standards, the crabs in the photos were in the medium size range.  The shells had a nice color, because they were living in fish tanks at the market for a while.  Maryland crab that is pulled right out of Chesapeake Bay in the late summer usually has dark reddish brown colored shells, but the color does change if they are held in captivity for a period of time.
     I always mix my own crab boil spices and I always make my own Maryland style crab seasoning spice mix that is modeled after the classic Old Bay flavor.  If all of the spices are not available in the kitchen, then one cannot go wrong by just purchasing a container of Old Bay.

     The first few plates in the pictures show a Maryland style Crab Boil presentation.  Notice how the crab seasoning is sprinkled over the whole crabs.  Since I intended to make a Maryland Crab Cake, the three crabs were shelled and the meat was saved, instead of being eaten hot and fresh right out of the crab boil pot.
     Maryland Crab Cakes require very high standards.  A Maryland Crab Cake should contain at least 95% blue crab meat and only 5% of the other ingredients.  Anything less will draw major criticism from anybody that comes from Maryland, because they know what the real deal crab cakes are all about!

     Russian Tartar Sauce:
     This recipe yields 2 accompaniment portions!
     Baltimore has a large Russian community.  A good Russian friend of mine from Baltimore used to be pro wresting star. many years ago  This guy always played the part of the "Diabolic Soviet Army Pro Wresting Manager."  When he saw the pictures of Pulaski Park that are in the slide show above and pictures of the Russian food that I have cook in the past, he really became a supporter of what I do.  I really do not know is a Russian version of Tartar Sauce exists, but I created this Russian Tartar Sauce version with my diabolic Soviet wrestling manager friend in mind! 
     Place 1/4 cup of mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped sweet gherkin dill pickle.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced cilantro.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of tarragon.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped rinsed capers.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of creme of tartar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Russian Mustard.
     Add 2 tablespoons of organic ketchup.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the Russian Tartar Sauce for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     *Place the tartar sauce into small ramekins when served.   

     Maryland Style Crab Seasoning Mix:
     This recipe yields enough to season about 8 to 10 blue crabs! 
     Many chefs in Maryland make their own crab seasoning spice mix.  The crab spice mixes made by chefs usually have a flavor that is similar to the classic Old Bay spice mix.  Old Bay contains little or no salt, but most chefs crab seasoning mixes do. 
     The flavor of this crab seasoning mix has the classic Maryland crab seasoning flavor with just a little bit more flavor range.   
     This recipe is not a crab boil spice mix.  It is only used to season the hot crabs after they are boiled!
     Place 2 tablespoons of sea salt in a mixing bowl
     Add 1 tablespoon of black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of white pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Spanish paprika.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 2 teaspoons of onion powder.
     Add 1 1/2  tablespoons of mace or 1 tablespoon of nutmeg.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground celery seed.
     Add 1 tablespoon of coriander.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of allspice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek.
     Add 2 pinches of ground cloves.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     The spice mix can be kept in a sealed container for many months.

     Maryland Crab Boil:
     This recipe yields 2 gallons of spiced crab boil water!  This is enough for up to about 10 blue crabs, depending on their size.
     Only live crabs are safe to eat!  Throw away any dead crabs.
     Live blue crabs may look sleepy and docile, but these little buggers can really move quick.  They will use their claws to latch onto anything within reach.  I do suggest handling the crabs with long kitchen tongs and keep the fingers clear!
     Step 1:  Boil enough water in a pot over high heat to cover the crabs when they are added later in the recipe.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sea salt.
     Add 1/4 cup of black peppercorns.
     Add 2 tablespoons of white peppercorns.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Spanish paprika..
     Add 1 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fennel seed.
     Add 10 cloves.
     Add 8 laurel leaves.
     Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seed.
     Add 1 pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 10 whole dried allspice berries.
     Add 5 juniper berries.
     Add 1 tablespoon of mustard seed.
     Add 1 teaspoon of mace or nutmeg.
     Add 2 tablespoons of coriander seed.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer for 15 minutes, so the flavors develop.
     Step 3:  Bring the liquid back to a boil over high heat.
     Add the live blue crabs.  (Up to about 10, depending on the size.  The liquid must cover the crabs.  If a whole bunch of blue crabs need to be cooked, just keep the crab boil going and cook the crabs in batches.)
     Boil the crabs in the crab boil for about 10 minutes, till the crabs are fully cooked.
     Step 4:  Turn off the heat and let the crabs sit in the hot crab boil liquid for 5 minutes, so the flavor penetrates.  
     Step 5:  Remove the crabs from the crab boil and place them on a plate.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of the Maryland Style Crab Seasoning over the crabs.
     Serve with a crab hammer, drawn butter, lemon or lime and a dipping sauce of your choice!

     Maryland Crab Preparation For Crab Cakes: 
     *3 medium size crabs will yield 1 medium size crab cake!
     If the hot boiled crabs are to be used for crab cakes, cool the crabs in ice water.
     Drain the water off the crabs.
     Shell the crabs.  (Try not to shred the crab meat!  The chunkier the better.)
     Keep the the crab meat chilled.

     Maryland Crab Cake:
     This recipe yield 1 medium size Maryland Crab Cake!
     The meat from 3 average size Blue Crabs is enough for a medium size crab cake.  
     The Maryland standard for crab cake is that a crab cake should contain at least 95% Blue Crab meat!  Anything less is not up to Maryland standards!
     Traditional Maryland Crab Cakes are always grilled or pan fried in a cast iron skillet and they are never deep fried.  The traditional frying medium is lard.
     Step 1:  Place the chunky meat of 3 boiled Blue Crabs in a mixing bowl.  (About 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups of loosely packed crab meat.)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of fine French bread crumbs.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced green and red bell pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 teaspoons of whisked egg.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Form the crab mixture into a ball shape.
     *The mixture should barely hold together.  If the mixture does not hold its shape, the add a couple more pinches of bread crumbs and a little more whisked egg.
     Press the ball of crab mix into a thick patty shape.
     Step 3:  Place the crab patty in a bowl of fine bread crumbs that are seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.
     Carefully and gently press a coating of bread crumbs on the crab patty.
     Step 4:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add enough lard, so the melted lard is about 1/2" deep.
     Use a thermometer to adjust the lard temperature to 360º.
     Step 5:  Use a spatula to carefully place the crab cake in the hot lard.
     *If the crab cake starts to get a few surface cracks as it fries, then gently use a spatula to press it back into shape.
     Pan fry till the bottom half becomes a crispy golden brown color.  (CGB!)
     Step 6:  Use a spatula to carefully flip the crab cake and press any cracks back together.
     Fry till the crab cake is golden brown on both sides.
     Step 7:  Place the crab cake on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess lard.  The lard can be save for frying other seafood items.

     Place the Maryland Crab Cake on the front center of a plate.
     Garnish the plate with a petite portion of a braised leafy green vegetable of your choice.  (Organic Nevada Swiss Chard was used as a garnish in the pictures above.)
     Place a ramekin of Russian Tartar Sauce on the plate.
     Garnish with a lemon or lime half.
     Garnish the sauce ramekin with a cilantro leaf.

     The aroma of a classic Maryland Crab Cake is just plain old awesome! 

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