Growing up in Maryland, summer means fresh Blue Crab and lump meat crab cakes next to sweet corn on the cob. Old Bay and butter are often the only toppings needed if the ingredients are fresh.
This past weekend, we went to West Cork to enjoy the beach a little and on the way home picked up crab meat from Castletownbere. I used the meat to make Chesapeake Crab Cakes in the style I grew up with. It’s all about using the least amount of other stuff as possible. Keep the crab cake about the crab meat itself. Back in Maryland, there are restaurants that serve just crabs and shrimp steamed/boiled with Old Bay seasoning. Ordered by the dozen and dumped in the middle of a newspaper-covered wood table for the group to dive in. I still remember one of the last times I saw my friend Dan before he passed away and it was Mardi Gras and a nearby seafood spot shipped in crab from the Gulf Coast (near New Orleans) and we had a small group just picking away at fresh steamed crabs and being ourselves. A meal so simple, it is about fresh ingredients and good company.
The sweetness of corn is ideal for a variety of dishes, from breads and puddings to chowders and casseroles. Grandma’s Corn Pudding is my grandmother’s own recipe that tastes the same when I make it today as it did when she made it fifty years ago. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been able to eat just one ear of corn. The summer before my orthodontist gave me braces, I ate corn on the cob like a girl on a mission. My Aunt Ruth made an amazing dinner one night and boasted that the farmers’ market had fresh corn so she bought “too many ears for just us”. As it turned out, she bought just enough. My father and I each ate at least six ears at each sitting, much to my aunt’s delight. To this day, I associate corn with the sound of a screen door slamming shut and the feel of plastic-covered furniture.
Chesapeake Crab Cakes
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (not dressing)
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, like Tabasco
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Old Bay seafood seasoning
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons chopped parsley (optional)
1/2 cup finely crushed Saltine crackers (or Jacob’s cream crackers)
1 pound fresh raw crab meat
1. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs then mix them with the mayonnaise, mustard, hot pepper sauce, lemon juice, Old Bay, and cayenne pepper. When the ingredients are well blended, stir in the parsley.
2. Sprinkle the bread crumbs in little-by-little until the consistency of the mixture can be formed into a shape, but not so many crumbs that it becomes dry. It is not necessary to use all the crumbs. Gently stir in the crab meat.
It will look like this after Step 2 (before you mix them together and form cakes).
3. Form burger-shaped cakes from the mixture and place them in a dish or air-tight storage container. The mixture should provide about six cakes, more if you are making this in appetizer-sized portions. If placing the cakes in the container in layers, place wax paper between the layers. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (no more than 12 hours) before cooking. 4. To fry the cakes, melt butter in a pan over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes on each side. To bake the cakes, place them on a lightly-greased baking sheet or dish, leaving a 2-inch space between cake patties. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes (less time for appetizer cakes). Using either method, the inside of the cake must reach an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees.
Grandma’s Corn Pudding
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
6 ears of cooked sweet corn, kernels only (or 16 ounces drained canned sweet corn)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium to large mixing bowl, gently beat the eggs and sugar together with a hand mixer. On a low setting, mix in the salt and flour. Little-by-little, add in the milk while continuing to mix.
3. Using a large mixing spoon, stir in the butter and corn kernels. Once the corn is evenly distributed in the other ingredients, pour the batter into an oven-safe pie/quiche dish or cast-iron skillet. Bake for 1 hour.
4. Serve warm.
What is your favorite summer food from your hometown?