Best crab cakes

With summer entertaining kicking off this Memorial Day weekend, I’m getting hit up for some guest favorites. The following recipe for crab cakes is a sure-fire winner for any occasion or season.

What makes this recipe so good you might ask? A large portion of the decade I spent in San Francisco was at Fog City Diner. The diner was located within walking distance of my office on Sansome and Montgomery and was a key decision-making factor when I searched for a bigger office space. Every lunch for six years was spent at the diner, the tab making it even easier as a go-to, my ever-expanding waistline bore testament to my addiction. When Rog and I started dating, he predicted I was on the fast-track to a heart attack. I either needed to start running along the Embarcadero or “cut back on the crab cakes.”

Sadly, the week I decided to move to Seattle (having then married Roger and realizing that a split-city relationship does not make for the optimal situation) I was told by the management I’d been voted in for a plaque on my favorite table. Alas! Well, I took the plaque with me along with the cookbook.

The Crab is key

The key to great crab cakes is having a high proportion of crab, as well as enhancing the flavors of the other ingredients. The way to do this is by sautéing the onion, garlic, celery and peppers in a metal-bottomed pan. This blends and folds the flavors in a way that is not accomplished by adding the ingredients together cold.  This particular part is a Sarah special, and differs from Fog City. In other words, it’s a blend of a southern, creole recipe, a northwestern recipe and my additional ingredients I’ve incorporated over the years as I’ve served (and listened) to guest response. It’s always the first appetizer to go. I hope you love it as much as I do.

1 lb fresh lump crabmeat (costco has a pre-packaged/fresh that is a great buy at $13/lb)
½ cup butter, some oil (depending on preference) 1 cup fresh bread crumbs 1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped orange and yellow each
1 chopped sweet onion
¼ cup minced sweet red onion
½ jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup chopped celery (inner stocks)
2 tsp fresh chopped tarragon
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp Hungarian paprika
Bit of cayenne pepper
Bit of Tobasco sauce
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (I prefer parmesan or garlic)
1 1/3 cup mayonnaise    


Heat butter and oil in a large skillet. Slice both red and sweet onion finely. Sautee a few minutes. Slice the peppers & chile, add to the sautee. 3-5 minutes depending on heat. Near the end, add the garlic. Remove from heat and let cool. Add the crab and all other ingredients except egg, mayonnaise and bread crumbs. Lightly beat the eggs and mayonnaise. Add to the mixture. Add the seasoned bread crumbs to the point where the mixture holds together but is not dry.

Note-if the mixture is runny and you are out of breadcrumbs, press the moisture out of the mixture through a strainer. If it’s still runny, chop more breadcrumbs to reduce the moisture. (If the mixture if runny when cooked, the cakes won’t stay together, and will fall apart).

Forming the crab cakes

Using a small round tablespoon scooper, cantelope scooper or such item, scoop, round and place in the hot skillet. To ensure a nice, even crab cake, use a fork (or other object) to slightly flatten the crab cake. If I am in a rush, I use a bacon press. This ensures the cakes are even and cook very fast.

Sherry Cayenne Topping

Mix together 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon cayenne, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar. Place a dollop on each crab cake