In true Chesapeake Bay fashion, no packaged seasoning goes into these crab cakes and no sauce goes on them.
“The objective was to savor the flavor of crab, not to spoil its flavor or make the plate look like it came from a Parisian bistro,” says R. Alex Hild, who grew up halfway between Annapolis, Md., and Baltimore. “Today some people add Old Bay or Phillips Seafood Seasoning, but we never felt the need.”
“Besides,” he continues, “when my mother was young, neither of those seasonings existed.”
Loretta Hild, to whom this recipe is credited, was born in 1910. The Inner Harbor block where her house once stood has since been overtaken by Oriole Park at Camden Yards. R. Alex Hild suspects she may have inherited the recipe from her mother.
In addition to crab cakes, the Hilds ate crab imperial and steamed crabs, which Hild also remembers enjoying as a young member of the U.S. Navy Reserve.
“Twice per year, instead of our regular meeting, we would rent the back room of a restaurant and spend the evening cracking crabs and drinking beer,” he says. “‘Real’ Baltimoreans arrive at such restaurants with their own crab mallet, often dangling from their belt.”
For this recipe, Hild recommends using claw meat. Whether you free it using a mallet tied to your waist is up to you.
Loretta Hild’s Crab Cakes
1 pound crab meat
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon pepper
6 Saltine crackers, crushed
Oil for frying
Remove all shell from crab meat; drain and set aside. In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients (mayonnaise through Saltines) until combined. Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the crab meat. Shape meat into six equally sized cakes.
Place a skillet over medium low heat; add cooking oil to cover. When oil is hot, cook cakes for about 10 minutes. Flip cakes, and continue to cook for 7-8 minutes. Remove cakes from pan and place on paper towel to drain. Serve hot.
Editor’s note: R. Alex Hild’s crab cake recipe is one of four competing in The Post and Courier Food section’s contest for a category crown. Over the course of a year, the newspaper will publish four reader-supplied recipes for each of 12 iconic Lowcountry dishes. Featured recipes have been lightly edited to conform with the newspaper’s style, but they have not been tested. It’s up to readers to choose a winner. To weigh in on the crab cake race, join us at bit.ly/PCfoodFBgroup.