These baked kani crab cakes have all the flavors of a Maryland crab cake with none of the crab, thanks to kani, or imitation crab (which is make from fish and easy to find kosher certified). They're deliciously summery and easy to make, too.Yum
Excellent Maryland-style "crab" cakes are a clear challenge to a kosher cook, and one I was determined to tackle. Back in the early years of my marriage, my (proudly Southern) mother-in-law gifted me with a copy of Mama Dip's Family Cookbook. Mama Dip's is a restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that I'd never heard of, but quickly fell in love with, all from reading the stories and recipes in the book (it's been a long-distance relationship). The restaurant was established by home cook-turned-restaurateur Mildred Council, and reads just like a grandma's recipe notebook. It's paperback without pictures, which I'm starting to believe is a sign of cookbook excellence. It doesn't need any pictures, because the recipes are so good. And down to earth. And comforting. The best.
For years, I'd been eyeing Mama Dip's crab cakes recipe: I knew there was a way to make it kosher so I could see what it would taste like. I tried to make it with fish, but then I discovered that Mama Dip also had a recipe for Maryland-style fish cakes that was already calibrated for fish (recipe forthcoming!). Then, I noticed a few recipes in my kosher cookbooks using kani, or imitation crab meat, which is actually made from a fish. (It's the stuff inside California sushi rolls.) So I thought I'd substitute that. After many trials, I found the perfect way to make them so they won't fall apart: first, stick them in fridge for half an hour to chill and meld, then...bake them. That's the whole playbook. Do not pan fry. Do not pass go. Bake. Oh, and by the way, it turns out that many crab-crab cakes are made exactly this way, only using lump crab meat rather than our kani. The method isn't Mama Dip's, but the flavors are all her.
What makes a crab cake a Maryland crab cake?
So, there are two kinds of crab cakes: one kind is loosely bound lumps of seasoned crab meat, while the other is more of a seasoned cake or patty that's breaded. I've seen both paraded as Maryland style, and I think they're actually common all over the South. What we're making today falls into the former variety. I think the thing that gives it its Maryland flavor is the combination of condiments and spices that goes into the mix: first and foremost, Old Bay Seasoning (which, by the way, has a Jewish history), and then mayo, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Oh, and another requisite, if you ask Mama Dip: saltine cracker crumbs.
Making kani "crab" cakes
For this recipe, you'll want to get flaked kani if you can. You'll still need to break it up a bit with your hands. First, though, mix together all the binding ingredients well, then gently toss the kani bits in it to coat them. Form the mixture into generous patties—the recipe makes eight—and then, crucially, put it in the refrigerator to chill for half an hour. (And no skimping! You can heat up the oven in meantime). Fifteen minutes in a hot oven and they'll be lightly bronzed at the edges and perfect on a roll or next to your favorite summer side.
Looking for more summery recipes?
- San Diego Style Carne Asada Burritos - a San Diego cult favorite for good reason (and easy to make kosher).
- Israeli Potato Salad - potato salad screams summer and this version has an Israeli edge (via Russia).
- Shawarma Chicken Skewers - grilled or broiled, these make an easy, summery dinner.
Maryland "Crab" Cakes (dairy)
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl except saltine crumbs and mix well. Add half the cracker crumbs and mix again.
- Place the remaining cracker crumbs in a dish. Form the mixture into 8 patties and place on a lined baking sheet.
- Leave to rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly colored at the edges.