Key Ingredient

Chesapeake Proud

By: The Local Palate

Maryland Crab Cakes

For the crab cakes at his Baltimore restaurant Woodberry Kitchen, Maryland native Spike Gjerde isn’t fussy about every ingredient. He readily admits to using store-bought mayonnaise (Duke’s) and while he makes his own mustard, he doesn’t mind if you sub dijon. But the James Beard award-winning chef insists on using Maryland crab, even if it costs about the same as a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. “Sure, it’s expensive, but consider what people pay for Iberico ham. For some reason, when food is in our own backyard, we don’t afford it the same respect, and that’s unfortunate,” he says. “Crab is one of the true delicacies of this region.” That’s why he eschews heavy fillers like panko and spice blends—the traditional is Old Bay—in favor of a scattering of homemade breadcrumbs and a pinch of fish pepper (a pepper variety popular around the Chesapeake in the nineteenth century). “Maryland crab has a delicate sweetness and you can’t taste that if you overwhelm it.”

“Around here everybody has their crab cake recipe,” Gjerde says. “It’s as closely guarded as cornbread further South. It’s our culinary touchstone.”

Woodberry Kitchen Crab Cakes

These can also be sautéed in a skillet with a little butter. In Maryland, crab cakes are traditionally accompanied by sweet corn and sliced tomatoes. Gjerde calls it “our holy trinity.”

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