|Beet's signature crabcakes jostle for position with a couple of softshells.|
As befits someone who was born and raised in a small Eastern Shore town where the mighty Susquehanna River empties into the Upper Chesapeake Bay, John "Beet" Bailey has crabs in his blood. (No crude jokes. Please!)
Beet was trapping, picking and eating crabs when most if us were tottering along on our first tricycle, and a few decades . . . er, years on, he is an acknowledged master of all things culinary when it comes to the Callinectes sapidus, better known as the Chesapeake blue crab. So when Beet showed up at the mountain retreat the other day with a half bushel of fresh caught jumbo blues (by trotline in the Chester River, if you must know), it was akin to hitting the lottery.
I too have been cracking crabs since I was knee high to a waterman, but had only occasionally eaten river crabs. They're the best.
|Guarded by a ferocious crabhound, Beet cleans the leftover crabs.|
We devowered most of the half bushel with the help of neighbors, which left about 10 crabs with which to make crabcakes.
In the hands of mere mortals, these leftovers would have produced perhaps a pound of meat, but Beet's methodical and anatomically informed stem-to-stern dissection yielded a scrumptious two pounds.
|Beet explains how to separate meat from a crab: Patiently.|
With the crabs picked cleaner than clean, Beet turned to the other ingredients.
Based on a pound of crabmeat, those ingredients are:
Half stalk of celery, chopped (for texture).
Wedge of sweet onion, minced.
2 teaspoons of mustard, brown preferred.
1 ~ 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise.
Half cup ~ cup of bread crumbs (for binder).
|A dicing Beet will go.|
Once you have all the ingredients mixed with the crabmeat, form the cakes. The size of each cake is up to you. But we're not making chocolate chip cookies, and as you can see, Beet likes 'em generously sized.
(If you've made more crabcakes than you're prepared to eat, they freeze beautifully. Set them on some wax or parchment paper in the freezer until they begin to set up, then wrap and freeze them in a freezer bag. When you're ready to eat them, let them thaw to room temperature and then follow the cooking instructions below.)
|Why skimp now? Make 'em big like Beet does.|
Onward and upward to the stove.
Put the heat on medium and melt a goodly-sized dab of butter in a saucepan. Being careful not to overheat and burn the dears, brown them 10 ~ 12 minutes on a side and serve. (NOTE: Remember that this meat was from steamed crabs. Uncooked meat will take longer.)
Lest you need reminding, crabs have a distinctive but delicate taste which is to red meat what Champagne is to red wine, so choose side dishes and beverages that won't trample on the taste. We had Beet's signature crabcakes with my own recipe potato and mixed tomato and avocado salads, which were perfect hot-weather compliments. I washed down the meal with Victory Prima Pils, while Saumur Les Pouches "Saumur Blanc" was the white wine of choice.
|Looks good enough to eat.|