Crab Cakes

Pamela and I met in Boston and we spent many of our summertime weekends in Maine, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, where we acquired a good grasp at preparing New England clam bakes at state parks, beaches or anywhere I could get away with starting a campfire.

The old Saab we used to drive always had a metal grate, a large pot, old bay seasoning and firewood in the back along with a couple of sleeping bags. We would cook up a clam bake with lobster, mussels, crabs, sausage, potatoes, onions, carrots and corn on the cob. Fun times, great food and fantastic wines.

Over the years, I have experimented with many recipes using traditional New England ingredients. Crab cakes, which  happen to be one of Pamela’s favorite dishes, is served frequently at our dinner table.


Maine, circa 1989

Now that we live in Oregon, I decided to create a special Pacific Northwest style crab cake using local Dungeness crab. This recipe has evolved from many years of experimenting and using a number of techniques honed from restaurants I have worked in across the country.

Chef Marc

Chef Marc, circa 1989

When I cook, rarely am I happy with my results except for my sauces.  Nevertheless, I was pretty damn proud of these crab cakes, and from the looks of Pamela’s empty plate, I can safely say she thoroughly enjoyed them too. My recipe requires a labor of love but great crab cakes involve some work to make them spectacular. Enjoy!

[box]Crab Cakes[/box]

Marc's recipe


8 appetizer portions (16) 2 oz. cakes or

4 dinner portions (8) 4 oz cakes

Basic ingredients

Ingredients for the crab cakes

  • 1 sweet onion diced
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 1 green, orange or yellow pepper diced
  • ½ cup Italian parsley chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound cleaned Dungeness crab meat
  • Tabasco to taste, one shake is good. For me two or three is better
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 ½ cups Panko breadcrumbs. ½ cup for the mixture 1 cup to coat finished cakes before cooking
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions for crab cakes

1. Dice the onions, celery and peppers.

Chopped ingredients

2. In a medium sized hot sauté pan, cook the vegetables until translucent. Deglaze with white wine. In another saucepan, scald heavy cream, then add the cream to the vegetables. Cook down until almost sec (dry). Place the vegetables and cream mixture in a bowl to cool the mixture.

Cream and mixture for crab cakes

3. Pick through the crab to remove any shells. Squeeze all the liquid from the crab. When working with crab, always work in a bowl that is set in a bowl of ice. Five minutes of prep without refrigeration will dramatically reduce the shelf life of the finished product, especially if you freeze and cook them later.

4. Combine the vegetable cream mixture with egg, crab, lemon juice, parsley, Tabasco and breadcrumbs. Form into 4 oz balls (or 2 oz for appetizer size). Place on a sheet with additional breadcrumbs to coat the balls. Chill for ½ hour before cooking.

Crab cake mixture

5. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat sauté pan to medium high. Add peanut or canola oil to the sauté pan. Sauté crab cakes on both sides until golden brown. Finish in the oven for 5-7 minutes, then flip. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until cooked through with an internal temperature of 180 degrees.

Crab cakes in pan

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 1 red bell pepper (roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped)
  • 1 cup mayo or fresh aioli
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions for sauce

1. Roast the pepper over a gas flame.

Roasting red peppers

2. Once completely roasted, place it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure it is sealed tight. The steam from the trapped hot pepper will loosen the skins.

Cover the peppers with plastic wrap

3. Once the pepper is cool (about 10 minutes), gently peel the skin off the pepper.  Do not rinse with water. Cut open the top to remove the seed pod.

4. Place the red pepper, mayo (or aioli), paprika, lemon juice, chopped parsley, salt and pepper into a small food processor and blend until smooth. If you want to be adventuresome, create two sauces. Roast a yellow pepper and combine it with Dijon, sweet onion, vinaigrette, capers and mayonnaise.

Roasting yellow peppers

5. Serve the crab cakes as an appetizer or make a meal of it by serving it with a salad, roasted potatoes and fresh corn on the cob. Serve the sauce on the side or drizzle directly on the crab cakes.

Crab cakes

On a side note, don’t forget about the wine! We pulled two bottles from the cellar and chilled them—a 2011 Ponzi Willamette Valley Pinto Gris and a 2011 Russian River Pinot Grigio from D&L Carinalli Vineyards.

Ponzi Pinot Gris

Although the wines were quite different in style, they both paired nicely with the crab cakes. Enjoy!