Cajun Spiced Crab Cakes

Every Christmas Eve we have a crab feed at my house. This year was a bit different because Tom and Junior actually went out and caught the crab for the dinner table. They had great luck catching 6 rock crabs and 6 large Dungeness crabs. More than enough for 5 people, one of which wasn’t interested in eating any crab. Eventually we’ll get Junior to enjoy it.

Th first few that were caught

Every year, even when we buy crab, we always have some left over. This year was no exception. My mom always made crab cakes the next day with what was leftover, but of course she’s in Ohio so it was my turn to try my hand at them. Having never made them before I was a bit nervous. But in the end I was really happy with them. So here’s how you can do it too.

1 lb Dungeness Crab meat

1 Egg

2 tsp Cajun Seasoning

1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1 tsp Hot Pepper Sauce

1/4 cup Oats

1 Tbs Lemon Juice

3 Tbs Safflower Oil

Remove all the crab meat from the shell. Grind the oats up. I like to use a coffee grinder as it gets them fairly fine. Add everything except the oil in a bowl.

I made the mayonnaise from scratch. I find that the commercial stuff is a bit too strong when I add it to stuff. I’m not sure what the strong flavor is, but I don’t much care for it. The homemade mayo is much milder and what is left you can use to make an accompanying aioli. Also feel free to add more hot sauce if you wish. A teaspoon doesn’t add much heat at all but rather just builds on the flavor profile.

I was surprised when I mixed this all together just how runny the batter was. Because it had egg in it though it should be able to bind well.

In a hot skillet add the oil over medium high heat and drop spoonfuls of the “batter.” Flatten them with the back of the spoon and then cook until browned. Gently flip and continue to cook until the other side is browned.

Pull the crab cakes out and place on paper towels to allow to drain. Keep them in a warm oven while you cook the rest of the cakes. Serve the crab cakes with any sauce that you would prefer. We like to eat ours with more hot sauce.


I LOVE seafood. I mean LOVE it. I’ve loved seafood since I was a little kid. Every year for my birthday all I wanted was to go eat calamari at my favorite seafood restaurant at Jack London Square in Oakland. They are no longer there, but I’ll always remember it.

So it would make sense that I would love cioppino. One of my favorite restaurants, the Dead Fish in Crockett, has what they call the Dead Fish Stew, which is basically cioppino and it is fabulous! Well, since we can’t eat there for at least the next year I had to find a substitute. This is a pretty good stand in and it’s really easy to make.

4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dry pepper flakes
1/4 c olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 c oven baked tomato sauce
4 c regular tomato sauce
1 1/2 c white wine
1 lb clams
1 lb mussels
1 whole dungeness crab
1 lb firm white fish of your choice
1 lb shrimp – shelled and deveined
1 lb scallops
1 lb octopus and/or calamari

1. Steam clams and mussels in 2 cups of water until they open. Strain, reserving liquid.
2. In a large pot cook garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until the onions soften. Stir in bell pepper and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add wine and boil until reduced by 1/2. Add reserved clam & mussel broth, tomato sauces, and bay leaf and simmer for 30 min.
4. Add fish, and remaining seafood to broth. Cook until seafood is cooked through – about 5 min.
5. Serve with fresh baked or artisan bread.

I made this last night we added octopus to it as well. If you make this, have fun with the seafood you put in it. The garlic, onion, peppers, and tomato sauces all came from our garden. The seafood sans the mussels and clams came from our local fish monger. The mussels and clams came from our farmers’ market. The wine is the last remaining wine from our wedding, almost a year ago. The bay leaf is from our garden. The red pepper flakes are just some of the spices we still have in our spice cabinet – but will be making more with our serrano peppers that we’re growing.

The pot we made was huge! I had to remove the meat from the mussels and clams because adding them with the shells wouldn’t have fit in our pot, and I was using the biggest pot we had. Well, not the biggest pot, my brew pot is the biggest, but it’s not suitable for cooking meals in due to it’s thin bottom.

I hope you try this out and love it as much as we do.

Belgian-Style Mussels

I should have called this post “Things I Thought Were Hard to Cook (But Was Wrong About)”, but then I would have had to include all of the other well-kept culinary secrets and…well…some of them are just going to have to stay secrets for a little longer.
Today, I just want to talk about mussels.
Anyone from coastal California knows mussels. They’re…the ones that aren’t barnacles. You know – the big (sharp) black shells that grow all over the rocks and cut your feet open and make it impossible to go tidepooling and sometimes the seagulls drop them from way up in the air and they hit you on the head and…
…wait, you can EAT those things?
I am here to tell you that you can (and should). If you don’t cook shellfish because it is “hard” or “scary”, you’re wrong. Try this. It is SO EASY and easily makes the best plate of mussels I have ever eaten.

If you are harvesting the mussels yourself, please read about the safe times of year to do so (October to April, basically) and all precautions to take. Hank Shaw has a great post about wild mussels here. Please take warnings about mussels seriously, as you can get very sick (and even die) from ingesting mussels that have filtered a particular dinoflagellate present in the waters during the summer months.
Farmed mussels are strictly enforced and are safe to eat, provided your supplier is following the rules set down by the government (who track the algal blooms and only allow harvest of shellfish when it is determined to be safe).
And yes, the quality of the shellfish is very important. We have a guy who comes to our local farmer’s market who supplies us with fresh, live, healthy mussels for a totally reasonable price (also clams, and oysters, which are his specialty).

This is only kind of a recipe. It’s actually more of a method. Take 2 lbs of mussels, and make sure they are all alive (they should either be closed, or they should close pretty quickly when you poke them in the squishy-parts). If they don’t close, toss them – they’re probably dead, and a dead mussel is not a tasty (or safe to eat) thing.
The beards will need to be removed from the mussels just prior to cooking (don’t do it until you are ready to cook them, as it can kill them, and then they will go bad). To do this, start at one side of the beard and pry it out. It will be partially inside the shell and can take a bit of muscle (haha) to remove, but once you get the hang of it, the process goes pretty quickly. Once they are de-bearded, rinse them well (Rick scrubs them off with a sturdy brush/scrubber) and keep them chilled until you are ready to put them in the pan.

Speaking of pans, you’ll want a big stock pot or deep frying pan (I use our big paella pan) that has a tight-fitting lid. Finely dice a couple of shallots and about 4 cloves of garlic, and put them in the pan with 1/3 bottle of white wine and about a cup of heavy cream, and slowly bring this up to a light simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the garlic and shallots are tender. Chop about 1/2 c of flat-leaf parsley and toss it into the mix, with a bit of salt and pepper (you’ll adjust later to taste).
Bring the broth up to a high simmer (but not a boil) and throw in your chilled, cleaned mussels. Spread them out as best you can in the pan (it’s OK that the sauce won’t cover them) and put the lid on the pan. Steam the mussels for about 8 minutes, or until all the shells are open.
At this point, if the shells do not open, they are probably dead. You can cook them for another few minutes to see if they’ll comply, but I generally just throw them out to be on the safe side.
Taste the broth and season with salt/pepper if necessary. The opened mussels are now ready to eat! Garnish with a bit more chopped parsley, and serve over pasta or with a side of fresh garlic bread – delicious.

From start to finish, this process takes Rick and I less than 30 minutes. I make the sauce, he de-beards, we reconvene for steaming, and make garlic bread while the mussels cook. Easy, right? Right.
Delicious? You bet.

I can’t wait until the season is right to try this with wild mussels (which will require a few more steps, as they are notoriously gritty and the broth needs to be strained to remove debris). Another wild food for the pot? I’m willing to go to the trouble!