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Etta’s New Crab Cakes

By Tom Douglas Fine Cooking Issue 80 From Moveable Feast Season 63, Ep.80
Article Image
Scott Phillips

Yield: Yields eight crab cakes.

Servings: four.

In 1980, I was hired as the chef for a brand-new restaurant called Café Sport, and from the first draft of the menu, Dungeness crab cakes were a centerpiece. I still serve the very same ones at my own restaurant, Etta’s Seafood, 26 years later. They’re the most popular item on the menu.


  • 8 slices white sandwich bread
  • 3 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. coarsely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 Tbs. coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 lb. fresh or pasteurized blue lump crabmeat, drained and picked clean of shell, or 1 lb. fresh Dungeness crabmeat (note: if you’re using Dungeness, squeeze the crabmeat lightly to remove excess liquid)
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • Red-Eye Cocktail Sauce, for serving
  • 4 lemon wedges

Nutritional Information

      Nutritional Sample Size based on four servings without sauce
      Calories (kcal) : 550
      Fat Calories (kcal): 330
      Fat (g): 37
      Saturated Fat (g): 15
      Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5
      Monounsaturated Fat (g): 15
      Cholesterol (mg): 195
      Sodium (mg): 930
      Carbohydrates (g): 27
      Fiber (g): 2
      Protein (g): 26


  • Tear up the bread and pulse it in a food processor to make fine, soft crumbs (you should have about 3-1/2 cups). Pour the crumbs into a 9×13-inch (or similar-size) dish and mix in 3 Tbs. of the parsley.
  • In a food processor, combine the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, bell pepper, onion, Tabasco, paprika, thyme, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and the remaining 2 tsp. parsley. Pulse to finely mince the vegetables and combine all the ingredients. With the motor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube until the mixture emulsifies and forms a thin mayonnaise.
  • Transfer the mayonnaise to a large bowl and stir in the sour cream. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the crabmeat, taking care not to break up the lumps. Pour the crab mixture onto a large rimmed baking sheet and portion it into eight equal mounds. Gently shape each mound into a patty about 3 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. (The mixture will be quite wet.)
  • Using a spatula to move the patties, lightly dredge each patty on both sides in the reserved breadcrumb mixture. Cover the crab cakes with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. (You can leave the cakes right in the pan of breadcrumbs and chill them as long as overnight.)
  • Heat the oven to 200°F. Heat 3 Tbs. of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the butter melts, add four crab cakes to the pan. Gently fry the crab cakes until they’re golden brown on both sides and heated through, turning just once with a spatula, about 4 min. per side. Transfer the cakes to a plate (don’t cover) and keep them warm in the oven. Wipe the skillet clean and cook the remaining crab cakes as above, using the remaining 3 Tbs. butter.
  • Serve hot, accompanied by ramekins of cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.

Make Ahead Tips

You can shape the crab cakes up to 24 hours before you cook them.


To make mini cakes, shape the crab cake mixture into 24 small cakes, about 1 heaping Tbs. each. Cook the crab cakes as directed in the recipe in batches of as many cakes as will fit comfortably in the skillet without crowding, and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side.


Rate or Review


  • JillWalshaw | 01/03/2012

    This is the second time I've made these. The flavour is great and I like the fact that apart from the crab (which I can have canned in the fridge for months), it's pretty much all pantry items. My husband is a huge crab-cake fan and absolutely loves it when I make these, but I find it frustrating that they fall apart so easily when I flip them in the skillet (and also when we're eating them). This time I added some bread crumbs to the crab mixture, to try to firm them up (as you would with hamburgers), but the result was the same - nice and firm out of the fridge, but so floppy in the skillet that they were a challenge to flip. Next time I might try chilling them for more than the hour suggested. Or use all the butter to fry - I used only 1 Tbsp each time, that might be the problem. Either way, I'll definitely make them again. I agree with other reviewers that you don't need that many breadcrumbs - a half-recipe would be enough.

  • User avater
    khavasutra | 08/30/2011

    Wonderful flavor if a bit messy to put together. Also there was probably 2 cups of breadcrumbs left over. I would like to try a little less butter next time as they were a little rich for me. I hope it works next time I make these delicious crab cakes.

  • Ski4me | 10/31/2010

    I made these crab cakes for dinner. While it wasn't soup I had difficulty getting them to hold together. Does anyone have any ideas as to what I can do? I did not use all of the bread crumbs. In fact, there were way too much breadcrumbs for dredging. They were delicious but I was happy it was prepared for a family meal. It would not be suitable for company unless they can really hold together reliably. Please help!

  • eatdrinkmanwoman | 10/30/2009

    These crab cakes and the seafood sauce that was suggested were a big hit at my dinner party. I did not double the recipe and served 6 people handsomely. In fact, the menu that this was part of made way too much food for 6 people. The crab cakes were the hit of the night. Thanks.

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