Platter of crab cakes
Photography by Clay Williams

I like using ground mace—considered the sister spice of nutmeg—in my crab dishes because it helps sharpen the flavor of the crab. In these rich crab cakes, you can taste the importance of mace, which is less sweet than nutmeg, but still adds a strong, peppery taste and smell. Crab cakes are fairly simple to make, but require a close eye: No one wants overly crisp or burnt cakes!

The breadcrumbs should bind the cakes together, but if you find that they aren’t holding together as you make them in-hand, add more bread- crumbs to your mixture by the spoonful. People often enjoy crab cakes with tartar sauce or cocktail sauce, and that’s all fine and good, but you put some of my pink sauce with these? Now you’ve got yourself a meal. 

TIP: To keep the cakes warm after cooking, preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Place the crab cakes on a large baking sheet lined with a piece of foil and place them in the oven. At this temperature, the oven will keep them warm without drying them out. 

Excerpt from the new book Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from The Matriarch of Edisto Island, by Emily Meggett, published by Abrams. Text © 2022 Emily Meggett. Photography by Clay Williams.

yields

Serves 12 to 14

    ingredients
  • 10 slices white or whole wheat bread
  • ½ cup (1 stick/115 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 large (225 g) onion, grated
  • ¼ cup (30 g) self-rising flour
  • 1 ½ cups (355 ml) milk, whole or 2%
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mace
  • 2 pounds (910 g) lump crabmeat
  • ½ cup (120 ml) vegetable oil, plus more as needed


steps
  1. Preheat your oven’s broiler to 500°F (260°C) or its highest setting. On your oven’s highest rack, broil all the bread slices for about 2 to 3 minutes, until golden and crisp, but not burned. Flip all the slices over and broil for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the broiler off and allow the bread to crisp in the oven for 15 minutes. 
  2. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool. Using a hand grater, grate the bread slices into breadcrumbs. The crumbs should look and feel like sand. Set the breadcrumbs aside. 
  3. In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onion and sauté́ for about 5 minutes, until tender. 
  4. Pour the butter and onion into a large mixing bowl. Whisk the flour into the melted butter and onion, then slowly whisk in the milk to make a creamy sauce. Once the sauce is smooth, whisk in the eggs, lemon juice, vinegar, and mace. 
  5. In the same mixing bowl, add the crabmeat. Combine the crabmeat and cream sauce together, mixing lightly with a fork so you don’t break up the pieces of crabmeat. Gently fold in just enough of the breadcrumbs so that the mixture holds together. Divide the crab mixture into equal portions (there should be 12 to 14 crab cakes). They should be thick rounds—about the size of the palm of your hand, and roughly 1 ½  inches (4 cm) thick. 
  6. Using your hand, take a scoop of the toasted breadcrumbs, and cover each crab cake with breadcrumbs. 
  7. Wipe out the skillet and heat the ½ cup of oil over high heat. Once the oil is hot, place a few of the crab cakes in the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side, until browned and cooked through. Working in batches, adding more oil as needed, cook the remaining crab cakes. Place the cooked crab cakes on a paper towel to drain the oil. Serve crab cakes immediately, or set aside in a warm oven (see Tip) while you cook the remaining crab cakes. 

Pink Sauce heading-plus-icon

yields

About 1½ cups

    ingredients
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
steps
  1. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. 

  • Excerpt From
    Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from The Matriarch of Edisto Island, by Emily Meggett, published by Abrams. Text © 2022 Emily Meggett. Photography by Clay Williams.
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