Some of my fondest food memories are from the summer months when the local Dungeness crab season is open. This began when our kids were toddlers and we lived on San Juan Island. In the beginning I complained about the piles of chicken bait crowding food in the refrigerator, dragging the boat through the mud to ride the tide and the overpowering smell of simmering crab in the house when my husband cooked his catch.
After our first feast of cracked crab I kept my mouth shut. I knew I had it good. In addition to setting and pulling the crab pots, my husband sat for long periods of time cracking the crab to retrieve the meat. My part was either eating the delectable meat or preparing a recipe. To say the least, all of us in my husband’s wake are the fortunate recipients of his passion for Dungeness crab fishing.
This year, my husband made a special day trip to San Juan Island for the opening of crab season. The crabs he returned with were devoured the next evening at a gathering for my daughter’s birthday. So I was left without extra crab to make the cakes and photograph them for blog post. Serendipitously for me the next day, our friend, Dave, called to see if we wanted oysters and he had extra crab meat from his catch. He kindly delivered it to me so I could complete this post. Thanks Dave!
Dungeness crab purists feel this native Northwest crustacean does not need anything added to it for eating. The sweet meat stands on its own. I agree with this philosophy when eating the first few crabs of the season. As the season rolls on, I like to add a little melted butter or cocktail sauce for dipping. And not too long after we are making crab melts on English muffins with a little minced celery and sharp Cheddar cheese. Close on their heels are these Dungeness Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
The key to a good crab cake is to not over power the delicate flavor of the crab. The recipe here adds a few enhancements in small amounts. For frying, vegetable oil works best as it allows the cake to brown and achieve a crisp exterior without burning. I add a little butter to it to give flavor. The cakes are fabulous on their own, but our tradition is to serve them with this simple roasted red pepper sauce.
You can turn this recipe into an appetizer by forming the crab mixture into smaller cakes. To serve, put a small spoonful of sauce on each crab cake. This recipe makes about 16 appetizer size cakes.
- Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
- 1 red bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons light sour cream
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Crab Cakes:
- 1 pound Dungeness crab meat
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
- 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- ½ teaspoon dill
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- For the sauce: Put bell pepper, cut side down, on baking sheet; cook under broiler until skin is blackened, about 10 minutes. Immediately put a wet paper towel over the blackened pepper and allow steaming about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove blackened skin from pepper. Puree pepper in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice and cayenne; season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauce can be made one day ahead and refrigerated until serving. Makes 1 cup.
- For the crab cakes: squeeze any extra moisture from the crab and put it in a bowl. Add egg, bread crumbs, green onions, parsley, dill and cayenne pepper and gently mix careful not to break any crab lumps; season to taste with salt.
- Form the crab mixture into eight cakes, about 3-inches in diameter and ¾-inch thick. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes (this will help the cakes keep their shape when cooking). Formed cakes may be refrigerated 8 hours ahead of cooking.
- Heat oil and butter in large skillet over medium high heat; add four crab cakes; cook until crisp and brown, about 4 minutes. Gently turn cakes over and cook until crisp and brown, about 4 minutes; remove to platter and keep warm while cooking remaining cakes.
- Serve Crab cakes topped with roasted red pepper sauce or on the side.