Quest for Crab Ended with Lobster
I started making crab cakes because my wife Stephanie loves them. She orders them regularly when we visit our local bistro, Le Gourmand, in Pointe Claire, a suburb of Montreal, and, of course, in Ogunquit, Maine, on the Atlantic coast where we like to go on vacation in the summer. She is very partial to the crab cakes made at the bustling No. Five-0 Shore Road restaurant in Ogunquit where the barman remembers your drinks order of three days earlier.
Her inclination prompted me to take a shot at making crab cakes. So I began my research. I found a recipe for Baltimore Crab Cakes in the widely read web site Epicurious.com. It was originally published in Bon Appétit in August 2011.
I made my first batch with canned crab (from Thailand) purchased at a local fish store, Pêche Pêche, and the cakes turned out to be reasonably good. Stephanie anointed them with her approval.
But I was not overjoyed because I wanted to cook with fresh crab meat or, at least, frozen crab meat and I wanted it from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Snow crabs make up a sizeable part of the bountiful Gulf fishery and I have seen snow crabs being unloaded from fishing boats at Bay St. Lawrence on Cape Breton near the Cabot Trail.
I continued my search and found frozen crab meat from St. John’s, NL, on a subsequent visit to Pêche Pêche. That went into the next batch of crab cakes and they turned out to be delicious.
With friends coming over for a buffet during the Christmas holidays, I was asked to make crab cakes again. But I could not find the frozen crab from Newfoundland. There was frozen crab available – it was even labeled Canadian snow crab – but on closer inspection the product came from China. No thanks.
I returned to the nearby Metro supermarket where I had recently purchased crab meat distributed by Phillips Seafood, a company based in Baltimore, MD with a pretty good reputation. A closer look at the container showed that the crab was a product of India. Again, it was Non, merci. I have visited both India and China (Hong Kong, actually) with my son and we dined like kings on fresh seafood, but my goal was to buy Canadian product from the cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. At the same time I wanted to support our Canadian fishermen who face relentless competition from much cheaper products originating in Asia.
With a little more investigation of the Metro freezers I came across frozen Atlantic lobster from Lagoon Seafood Inc. (of Lachine). It was labeled Canadian and that was good enough for me. It was double the price of the frozen and canned crab, but at least there was a choice. So I bought it. And the lobster, mostly claw meat with some from the body, turned out to be a spectacular replacement.
Nina Peritz, one of our guests, raved about the “lobster balls.” Despite my brief explanation of the lobster anatomy, she continued to refer to the cakes as lobster balls throughout the evening. And Susan Schwartz, who writes about food for the Montreal Gazette and recommended Ogunquit to us as a vacation destination some years ago, asked for the recipe.
So here it is:
Gaspé Lobster Cakes
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 Thai pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon (or lime) juice
1 lb. of thawed lobster meat coarsely chopped (drain liquid from container first)
1 ¼ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or any other kind
A couple of grinds of fresh pepper
A couple of grinds of sea salt
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Mix the first seven ingredients in a medium bowl. Add lobster and blend. Add half the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.
Form the mixture into small … uh … balls with a tablespoon or ice cream scoop and roll in remaining breadcrumbs on a plate. Cool in refrigerator for up to half an hour so the … uh … balls can bond. Otherwise they could fall apart. Fry in oil until golden brown. Serve with parsley or on a bed of lettuce and wedges of lemon or lime for spritzing.
Yield: 8-12 cakes, depending on size.
What a treat.