Erica Culbert earned the honor of making “Delaware’s Best Crab Cakes” in front of a large crowd at the University of Delaware’s annual Coast Day festival on Sunday, October 3, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes.
Culbert, a resident of Philadelphia, won first place with her “Classic Crab Cakes with Dill Pickle Tartar Sauce.” She used only a few additional ingredients to enhance the crab’s natural flavor in her winning recipe. She served her crab cakes with a distinctive tartar sauce made from finely diced dill pickles and Dijon mustard. Culbert received a $150 cash prize, a plaque, and an invitation to return as a judge for next year’s competition.
“I had a great time cooking outside with all of the other competitors,” said Culbert, who has entered the Coast Day Crab Cake Cook-Off three times — twice making it to the finals. “I was up against some really great competition including my own mother, and I was really surprised to hear my name announced as a winner. The only down side to winning is that I can’t compete in the contest next year, but I look forward to returning to the lovely town of Lewes to be a judge in 2005.”
Earning second-place honors and a $100 cash prize was Bonnie Robinson of Seaford, Delaware, with her recipe titled “Specialty Crab Cakes.” Pimiento, Old Bay Seasoning, and white wine Worcestershire sauce added a unique flavor to her crab cakes, which were topped with a Dijon-style mustard sauce.
Terry Ann Moore of Oaklyn, New Jersey, won the $75 third prize with her “Devilish Crab Cakes with Citrus Caper Mayonnaise.” Her crab cakes were served sandwich style between slices of grilled sourdough bread with lettuce and tomato and a spoonful of mayonnaise spiced with capers, as well as lime juice, lemon juice, and finely grated lemon rind.
Last year’s winner, Cheryl Tilton, chef and owner of Gilligan’s Waterfront Restaurant & Bar in Lewes, Delaware, returned as a judge for this year’s competition. “The winner did an excellent job of using ingredients that did not mask the flavor of the crab,” said Tilton.
Although Tilton enjoyed judging, she looks forward to coming back as a competitor with a new recipe next year. “I’ll be back!” she said.
Also judging the event were Robert Collette, vice president of science and technology at the National Fisheries Institute, and Richard Steele, from Café Azafran in Lewes. The crab cakes were judged for originality, composition, taste, and texture.
Eight finalists competed in the cook-off, setting up their favorite appliances under a tent to prepare their recipes in front of the judges and interested onlookers. In addition to Culbert, Robinson, and Moore, the finalists included Barbara Culbert, from Norristown, Pennsylvania; John Hall, from Berlin, Maryland; Richard Gebrosky, from Murrysville, Pennsylvania; Richard Neumann, from Camden, Delaware; and Tim Scanlon, from New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.
“This year’s Coast Day Crab Cake Cook-off was as exciting as ever — we had cool temperatures, some wind, and some very enthusiastic contestants and judges,” said Doris Hicks, seafood specialist for the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service and organizer of the cook-off. “Here on the Delmarva peninsula, we get the best crab meat you can find, and that really challenges the contestants to come up with recipes that are unique, use complimentary ingredients, and at the same time don’t overpower the crab meat.”
Each finalist received a copy of the commemorative Coast Day Crab Cake Cookbook. The 50-page, spiral-bound booklet, published by UD’s Marine Public Education Office, contains all of the finalists’ recipes from the first 10 years of the contest. Copies are available from the Marine Public Education Office in Newark at (302) 831-8083, or the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service in Lewes at (302) 645-4346. The cookbook costs $4.
Coast Day 2004 Crab Cake Cook-Off Winning Recipes
FIRST PLACE — “CLASSIC CRAB CAKES WITH DILL PICKLE TARTAR SAUCE”
by Erica Culbert, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Classic Crab Cakes:
2 pounds lump crab meat
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup shallots, finely died
5 tablespoons white wine
3/4 cup diced white bread
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 cup chopped chives
Dill Pickle Tartar Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup dill pickles, finely diced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
To make Clasic Crab Cakes: Sauté butter and shallots over medium-low heat until translucent. Add wine and bread cubes, and stir gently. Sauté for one more minute, and set aside. Mix mayonnaise, lemon zest, eggs, pepper, and salt in small bowl. Add these ingredients as well as the crab meat and chives to the bread mixture. Gently mix, trying not to break apart the crab meat. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes or up to 8 hours. After the mixture sets, form into cakes. Heat oil over medium heat. Sauté cakes until golden brown.
To make Dill Pickle Tartar Sauce: Stir ingredients until incorporated.
To serve: Serve with Classic Crab Cakes, and garnish with lemon wedges.
SECOND PLACE — “SPECIALTY CRAB CAKES”
by Bonnie Robinson, Seaford, Delaware
2 pounds crab meat
1/4 cup celery, diced fine
1/4 cup onion, diced fine
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 small jar pimiento
2 tablespoons butter
6 slices bread with crust, soaked in water and squeezed dry
1 large egg
3 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 tablespoon white wine Worcestershire sauce
1 cup dry bread crumbs
Peanut oil for frying
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon-style prepared mustard
salt and pepper to taste, if needed
Remove shell from crab meat, being careful to not break the lumps completely. On low heat, sauté celery and onion in butter until clear, and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients together, except the dry bread crumbs. Add the onion and celery mixture, and mix well. Add crab meat, and toss lightly. Shape into approximately 12 crab cakes, cover, and chill up to eight hours before cooking. Dip crab cakes in dry bread crumbs, and fry in peanut oil until golden brown. Serve with sauce.
THIRD PLACE — “DEVILISH CRAB CAKES WITH CITRUS CAPER MAYONNAISE”
by Terry Ann Moore, Oaklyn, New Jersey
2 large eggs
2/3 cup good quality mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet pepper
3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds jumbo lump blue crab meat, checked for shells
Oil for frying
Citrus Caper Mayonnaise:
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
1/2 cup capers
1 teaspoon lime rind, finely grated
1 teaspoon lemon rind, finely grated
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cup soft sourdough bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs, if preferred)
1 1/2 cup mustard-flavored pretzels, crushed
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
6 – 8 slices grilled sourdough bread
8 slices romaine lettuce, washed and dried
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
Mix ingredients for the Citrus Caper Mayonnaise, and chill until serving time. Mix the crumb ingredients together, and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the mayonnaise, pepper, chives, lemon juice, lemon rind, parsley, black pepper and red pepper flakes, and 1 cup of the crumb mixture. Stir to blend. Mix in the crab. Shape into 6 – 8 cakes. Dredge in the remaining crumbs. Fry in a hot skillet or on an electric grill until golden on each side. If desired, crab cakes can be cooked over hot charcoal in a covered grill, which has been lined with foil.
To serve: Place a slice of grilled sourdough on each plate. Top with a slice of romaine lettuce and then a slice of tomato. Place a crab cake on top and add a spoonful of the Citrus Caper Mayonnaise. If desired, garnish with a few spears of chives and some long strands of citrus zest. Add a lemon and lime wedge to the plate.