Maryland and crab cakes are synonymous. You can’t go visit Baltimore and not try a crab cake, it just wouldn’t do the Chesapeake Bay justice.
Lucky for me, I was raised in a family of Italians and Puerto Ricans whose mantra is “we live to eat rather than eat to live.” Not only am I ecstatic that I get to be in Baltimore for the Preakness, but anyone that knows me knows that I am also extremely excited to try food from places I’ve yet to go.
The basic ingredients of crab cakes are: crab, mayonnaise, seasoning and some kind of binding like crackers. Pretty much everything else added to that concoction and the way the cakes are cooked are what make each restaurant’s crab cakes unique.
In Baltimore, there are so many well-respected and praised restaurants and so many variations of the Maryland crab cake. It was hard to find just one to feature but when I found out that Pierpoint Restaurant’s chef and owner, Nancy Longo, was dubbed “Maryland’s unofficial coronated crab cake queen” by Maryland Magazine I knew that she would be the perfect person to chat with to find out what the key to a perfect Maryland crab cake truly was.
Restaurant: Pierpoint Restaurant
Location: Fell’s Point. 1822 Aliceanna St., Baltimore, MD 21231
Victoria Garofalo: Nancy, thanks for talking some time out to talk with me about your award-winning crab cakes. To you, what do crab cakes mean to Maryland?
Nancy Longo: Crab cakes and Maryland are one in the same.
VG: Opinions about the key ingredient vary from chef to chef, what do you believe is the key ingredient to your crab cakes?
NL: The ingredients that make up the quintessential flavors of a Maryland crab cake are the fruitwoods [usually cherry and apple] as well as the mustard and old-bay ratios.
VG: What drink do you recommend one enjoying while eating crab cakes?
NL: Around here in Baltimore - Natty Boh [National Bohemian] or Clipper City Beer
VG: Do you like/recommend tartar sauce or cocktail sauce better with crab cakes (or nothing)? Why?
NL: Tartar sauce because the tomato and horseradish in cocktail sauce is too heavy for the crab cakes we make
VG: What is the best side dish to your crab cakes?
NL: Our brussel sprout slaw is the best side for the crab cakes.
VG: What does the Preakness mean to you?
NL: I’m a big Pimlico fan. I love to go to the Preakness. My father was a boxer and all his friends were jockeys at Pimlico so it holds a special place in my heart.
Hopefully, you readers are feeling inspired (and hungry).
Nancy was generous enough to share her recipe. Enjoy!
Chef Nancy Longo
Maryland Crab Cakes
(Serves 4: 2 each)
1 pound of jumbo crab meat
1 pound of sweet crab claw meat
20 butter style crackers crushed into crumbs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
2 teaspoons parsley
1 cup mayonnaise
juice from ½ of one lemon
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon melted, salted butter
Clean crabmeat and set aside. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in the order listed and mix thoroughly. Add crabmeat and gently fold in so as not to break the lumps. Portion out into 8 crab cakes of equal proportion.
Can be cooked either of two ways:
Broil in a heated broiler in a shallow baking dish with a small amount of water for about 10 minutes, careful not to burn.
OR: Sautee in vegetable oil until golden brown on all sides.
To prepare the smoked crab cake, prepare a charcoal grill with hot, grey coals. Place a small stainless steel bowl of water in the coals in the center of the grill. In a separate bowl, soak a few fruit wood chips for approximately 1 hour. Remove wet wood chips from water, and gently drop them on top of hot coals, the wood chips should begin to smoke at this point. Take grill grate and line it with aluminum foil. Poke a few holes in the foil and place crabmeat on top. Then place aluminum lined rack with crabmeat on top of grill and cover. Allow to smoke for approximately 30 minutes. Remove crabmeat and cool for 1 hour. Mix cooled crab meat into same manner as recipe above.