Crab Cakes, Grain mustard rémoulade and homemade garlic pickles

Chef Brian Malarkey
from "Come Early, Stay Late" by Brian Malarkey

serves 4 friends as a main dish

If you're going to have a crab cake recipe on the menu at one of my restaurants, it better be awesome, 'cause we don’t do "ordinary!" I love this one because it has a great mix of flavors and textures going on in it. It's got the crunchy, it's got the lemon, it's got the mustard, and when you fry it all up, you've got a kick-ass crab cake. Top it with a heaping pile of our spicy rémoulade for the final zing, and you got it goin' on!

For the pickles

  • 1 white or yellow onion, cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups white wine vinegar
  • 10 Kirby cucumbers (or similar), rinsed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 nice big handful fresh dill 

For the crab cakes

  • 1 whole egg
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ Granny Smith apple (or similar), peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup yellow onion, finely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning (I love this stuff!)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds jumbo lump crab, picked clean
  • 2 cups Ritz crackers, crumbled 
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs 
  • ¼ cup oil or clarified butter, for frying

For the rémoulade

  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons celery root, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped

Finishing touch

  • Pickled red onions

How to do it

Chef's note: For homemade pickles, start this recipe at least a day ahead. Now, you don't need to serve this crab cake with pickles, but I'd recommend it. Pickles are super easy. The downside is they require advance planning on your part. It's up to you. Homemade pickles are always a nice thing to have hanging out in the fridge, though, so keep that in mind.

  1. Prepare the pickles: In a large stockpot, combine the onion, garlic, water, salt, and vinegar and bring to a boil. In the meantime, put the cucumbers in a container (glass is best) with the handful of dill. Once the pickling liquid boils, pour it over the cucumbers (completely submerge them) and let them sit outside the fridge until they drop to room temperature. (It''s helpful to put a plate on top to weigh them down, so they all pickle evenly.) Once they are cool, put them in the fridge for a minimum of a day. (They'll only get better with every day after that!) They'll hang out in the fridge very nicely for a month.
     
  2. Prepare the crab cake mixture: In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together (except the crab, the crackers, and the panko) and combine well. Add the crab and combine gently to incorporate.
     
  3. In a food processor, pulse the Ritz crackers and the bread crumbs until they have the consistency of graham cracker crumbs. Reserve 2 cups for coating the crab cakes before cooking. 
     
  4. Incorporate the bread-crumb mixture into the crab. When you do this, be careful not to break up the lump crabmeat too much. (You really want to have that texture in the cakes.) Now you're ready to mold your cakes. Use a 2- to 3-inch diameter cookie cutter or ring mold that is about 2 inches tall. Fill the molds with the crab mix and pack them nice and tight. The tighter you pack, the better your cakes will hold up when you cook them. Store all of your molded cakes on a sheet tray in the fridge until you're ready to cook them. 
     
  5. Make the rémoulade: In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients (except the salt, pepper, and parsley) and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and finish with the parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
     
  6. Preheat oven to 375ºF. 
     
  7. Cook the crab cakes: Heat a large nonstick pan on high heat and add ¼ cup of clarified butter or cooking oil. Remove the crab cakes from the fridge and coat them in the 2 cups of the cracker mixture. Sear them in the pan until they're golden brown on one side, then flip them over and pop them into the oven (in the pan) for about 6 minutes. (Keeping them in the pan while they're in the oven enables the bottoms to get nice and brown while they heat through.) Test for doneness by poking them with a cake tester or metal skewer and testing the temperature on the inside of your wrist. If it's hot, you're good to go! 
     
  8. Arrange each cake on a plate with some sliced pickles and a dollop of rémoulade and dig in!