While crab cakes are a dish most commonly associated with Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay area, Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook offers a spicier local version on page 56, prepared with Creole seasonings and pepper sauce. According to Wikipedia, the cake is usually served with a sauce of some kind, the most common being remoulade, tartar sauce or ketchup. Mr. Brennan's version is served with a spicy ravigote sauce using peppers, lemon, horseradish, mayonnaise and hard-boiled eggs. The ravigote recipe can be found on page 372.
Crab cakes are the result of a lengthy evolution of minced meat recipes that have been around since ancient times. At the foodtimeline.org, economy is cited as being a primary reason for the development of minced meat and bread recipes. It was a subsistence strategy in order to further limited supplies of meat. This food tradition was most likely brought to America with the earliest of English colonists where such economy was vital. One of the earliest American Recipes dates to 1685 by Robert May in The Accomplist Cook, which was reprinted in facsimile form in 2000 by Prospect Books: Devon. While the recipe isn't the easiest to follow, May uses unusual ingredients in his seasoned breading:
Take the meat out of the great claws being first boiled, flour and fry them and take the meat out of the body strian half if it for sauce, and the other half to fry, and mix it with grated bread, almond paste, nutmed, salt, and yolks of eggs, fry in clarified butter, being first dipped in batter, put in a spoonful at a time; then make sauce with wine-vinegar, butter, or juyce of orange, and grated nutmeg, beat up the butter thick, and put some of the meat that was strained into the sauce, warm it and put it in a clean dish, lay the meat on the sance, slices of orange over all, and run it over with beaten butter, fryed parasley, round the dish brim, and the little legs round the meat.Crab dishes prepared with breading reached the height of popularity in the mid-1800s according to surveys of cookbooks. At GourmetSleuth.com's history of the crab cake, the first printed mention of "Crab Cake" came in 1930 in Crosby Gaige's New York World's Fair Cook Book. Tom Fitzmorris in New Orleans Menu Daily argues that crab cakes came to New Orleans in the early 1990s, replacing stuffed crabs on local menus.
With the abundant supply of crabs along the Gulf Coast so readily available to the home chef, crab cakes will enjoy a long sojourn in many a kitchen.
SOURCE: "Wikipedia: Crab Cake" 03/31/08
SOURCE: "The Food Timeline: Lobster, Crab, Shrimp & Oysters" 02/26/08
SOURCE: "GourmetSleuth.com: Crab Cakes" 05/10/07
SOURCE: "New Orleans Menu Daily: Crab Cakes" 2007
Photo by Kerri McCaffety. Copyright by The Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.