Recipe: Super Bowl crabcakes tell a tale of three cities, New Orleans, Baltimore, San Francisco

This year's Super Bowl game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens is awash in coincidences.

Not only are the head coaches of the two teams brothers, their hometowns are both important coastal cities -- on opposite coasts, yet at nearly the same latitude -- and the game is being played in New Orleans, on the Gulf Coast.

If you'd like to serve a theme food at your Super Bowl gathering, remember that coastal cities love seafood, and crabcakes are favorites in all three of these great American cities -- yet each region has a very different knack with the delicious morsels.

Upon inspection, it's fascinating how the crabcakes of these three cities reflect the very stereotypes the cities themselves invoke -- New Orleans' spicy and complex; Baltimore's straight-laced and quite puritanical; San Francisco's modern, adventurous and eclectic.

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As you might imagine, the New Orleans crabcakes are generally more pungent than the others and contain more ingredients, including the Cajun trinity of bell peppers, scallion and celery, usually cooked down in butter before adding. With the addition of spicy Creole mustard, Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper (or both) and garlic, these are some powerfully flavored cakes. They are usually served with the equally powerful remoulade sauce, a type of tartar sauce flavored with spicy Creole mustard, capers, tarragon and cayenne. We also found some really old-fashioned Deep South crabcake recipes that contain cheddar cheese and spice.

Maryland crabcakes are usually much plainer. They are primarily crab with just enough egg, mayonnaise and breadcrumbs to hold them together and keep them moist. Flavor is added with judicious amounts of dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and parsley, but the predominant flavor remains crab. These cakes can be fried, but for an even more purist approach, many prefer them broiled. In Maryland, they are often served on a bun with regular tartar sauce.

Baltimore and New Orleans are old cities, having been founded in 1729 and 1718, respectively, and had many years to develop their cooking styles as population centers of the East Coast and Deep South.

San Francisco, on the other hand, was a tiny Spanish/Mexican mission until California was annexed to the United States in 1846, and, according to the virtual museum of the City of San Francisco, didn't attract a population of over 1,000 until the gold rush of 1849.

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San Francisco is known for its modern and worldly take on food rather than for its old-time specialties (except for sourdough bread, a gold-rush staple.) So, while there isn't a standard San Francisco-style crabcake recipe, crabcakes of all kinds are popular there, many with Asian flavors. We found a recipe from famous San Francisco chef Jeremiah Tower, who was instrumental in fashioning the "New American" West Coast cuisine.

While blue crabs are an East Coast and Lake Pontchartrain specialty and are always used in Maryland and New Orleans, West Coast recipes are more likely to use Dungeness crab, a large, sweet, cold-water crab caught in the chilly Pacific.

That said, any good-quality pasteurized crabmeat found in the refrigerated section will do fine. Imitation crab and canned crabmeat will give less-superior results.

CRABCAKES OLD-TIME NEW ORLEANS STYLE

(Cheesed Crab Flakes en Coquilles)

2 eggs

Meat from 1 dozen large blue crabs (3/4 pound meat)

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash of Tabasco sauce

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Breadcrumbs

Fat for frying

Beat one egg separately. Mix one with the crabmeat. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Stir in grated cheese.

Add just enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together. Form into balls, dip in the beaten egg, then roll in more breadcrumbs, then fry in hot fat to golden-brown crispness.

If possible, serve in crab shells that have been cleaned and washed. Garnish with a tiny sprig of parsley atop each ball, and serve on a platter with lettuce leaves and lemon slices.

Serves 6.

-- "Jessie's Book of Creole and Deep South Recipes," by Edith and John Watts, 1954

EMERIL'S REAL AND RUSTIC LOUISIANA CRABCAKES

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup small diced yellow onions

1/2 cup small diced celery

1/4 cup small diced red bell peppers

1/4 cup small diced yellow bell peppers

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 pound lump crabmeat, cleaned and picked over for shells and cartilage

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves

3 tablespoons Creole mustard

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons), in all

2 eggs, in all

3-1/2 cups vegetable oil, in all

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (recommended: Tabasco)

1-1/2 cups fine breadcrumbs, in all

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3

teaspoons Creole seasoning, in all

1 tablespoon water

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute for 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and cool for 5 minutes. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the crabmeat, scallions, grated cheese, parsley, Creole mustard and juice of 1 lemon. Mix to incorporate. Set the mixture aside.

For the mayonnaise, in a food processor with a metal blade, process 1 egg and remaining lemon juice for 1 minute. With the machine running, slowly add 1 cup vegetable oil. The mixture will be thick after all the oil is incorporated. Add the Worcestershire and hot sauce; process the mixture to incorporate. Season the mayonnaise with salt and pepper.

Fold the cooled sauteed vegetables into the crab mixture. Fold 1/2 cup of the mayonnaise and 3/4 cup of the breadcrumbs into the crab mixture. Mix gently, but thoroughly.

In a shallow bowl, season the flour with 1 teaspoon of the Creole seasoning and the white pepper. In another bowl, whisk the remaining egg with the water. Finally in 1 bowl, combine the remaining breadcrumbs and 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning together. Portion the crab mixture into 1/3-cup balls. Form the balls into patties, about 1-inch thick.

Pour the remaining 2-1/2 cups oil into a saute pan and heat to 360 degrees.

Dredge the cakes in the seasoned flour. Dip the cakes in the egg wash, letting the excess drip off. Dredge the cakes in the seasoned breadcrumbs, covering the cakes completely. Gently lay the cakes in the oil and fry for 4 minutes on each side. Remove the cakes from the oil and drain on a paper-lined plate. Season the cakes with the remaining Creole seasoning.

Makes 10 cakes.

-- "Louisiana Real & Rustic," by Emeril Lagasse, 1996

TRADITIONAL MARYLAND CRABCAKES

8 ounces pasteurized crabmeat

1 egg

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1-1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard

1-1/2 teaspoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon Phillips Seafood Seasoning

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Combine all ingredients except for crabmeat. Gently fold in the crabmeat.

Shape into cakes, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Pan fry in oil or butter, or broil until golden brown on each side.

Serves 3.

-- Adapted from aboutseafood.com, from Phillips brand crab

CHEF JEREMIAH TOWER'S SAN FRANCISCO STARS CRABCAKES

1 pound fresh shucked crabmeat, picked over for shells or cartilage

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 cups warm mashed potatoes

4 organic egg yolks

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

Fresh black pepper to taste

1/3 cup clarified butter

Place the picked-over crab in a bowl and add the lemon juice and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, egg yolks, mustard, cayenne, salt and pepper.

Now fold in the crabmeat. Using about a 1/4 cup blob of the mixture for each crabcake, pat and shape into 12 1/2-inch-thick patties.

In a heavy-duty large skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the crabcakes without crowding. Fry for approximately 3 minutes each side until well-browned. Fry the remaining cakes using more butter if necessary.

Makes 12 patties.

-- Adapted from www.thekitchenman.ca/stars-crab-cakes/

(Aimee Blume writes for the Evansville Courier & Press in Indiana.)
 

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