Crab Cakes a la Charley G’s

Crab cakes were the most talked-about specialty in the years when Charley G’s had a restaurant in Metairie. (They still operate in their home town of Lafayette.) Their solution to the challenge of making the greatest amount of crabmeat stick together in the least amount of binder was solved by pushing the crab lumps into a matrix of bechamel. (That’s what you get when you whisk milk into a blond roux.)

The bechamel was not only soft and neutral in flavor, but it could hold the onions, bell peppers, celery, and other ingredients you’d like to be present in the cake. As for bread crumbs, they only form a light coating on the outside, so they can lend a toasty flavor. Here’s what they showed me on my old WVUE television show. Some of the seasoning ingredients are off the mainstream. Don’t worry about it; substitute or leave them out. (You won’t make them exactly the same way the restaurant does, anyway.)

Crabcake on a salad at Lakehouse.

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 lb. lump crab meat
  • 1/2 Tbs. Creole seasoning
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbs. Tiger sauce (bottled; available at the supermarket)
  • 1 qt. heavy cream
  • 1 oz. chicken demi-glace (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. granulated onion
  • 1 Tbs. granulated garlic
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • Flour for dredging
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 sticks margarine, clarified

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan to smoking. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery and saute until wilted and slightly caramelized.

2. Transfer to a deep baking dish capable of holding 2 1/2 quarts. Add crabmeat, Creole seasoning, green onions, parsley, and tiger sauce. Toss with a rubber spatula to mix well. Set aside.

3. Combine cream, chicken demi-glace, granulated onion, and granulated garlic in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

4. In a bowl, combine flour and melted butter to make a white roux. Once cream has come to a boil, lower the heat and add the roux. Whisk until the very thick sauce begins to pull away from the sides of the pot.

5. Pour the bechamel into the crabmeat mixture and fold until the crabmeat is well distributed. Chill overnight, uncovered.

6. Divide and shape into 16 cakes, all about the same size.

7. Blend eggs into milk. Dust the cakes with flour. Dip into the egg-and-milk wash, then dredge in the flour again.

8. Heat the margarine over medium-high heat, with enough margarine in the pan to come about halfway up the cakes. Sizzle four crabcakes at a time until golden brown. Turn cakes, lower the heat, and cook until the bottoms are crusty and golden brown.

Serve with remoulade sauce or tartar sauce–or nothing at all.

Serves 6-8 crab cakes.

2 Readers Commented

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  1. Scarlett on April 1, 2014

    Doesn’t the béchamel taste floury without cooking the butter and flour first? Or does the warm cream take that taste away? Also, what about breadcrumbs mentioned in the narrative?

    • Tom Fitzmorris on April 1, 2014

      Hello, Scarlett. . .

      See step #4, where you make a light roux with the butter and flour.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris