Sometimes we spend a good deal of effort and time to prepare a great meal for ourselves. We’re worth it, after all. Sometimes, we make a great meal and it takes no time at all. It especially helps when there are experts doing some of the work for you.
Both of us grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, the undisputed crab cake capital of the world. Any Baltimorean will tell you that the secret to a great crab cake is the fresh blue crab meat (and not too much filler). Living in Tampa, we rarely have access to the right meat, so when we want crab cakes , we do what any sensible person would do: we get on the internet.
For the nearly five years we’ve been here, we’ve ordered crab cakes from Michael’s in Timonium, MD. They package the delicious cakes in dry ice and overnight them to us. Unfortunately, the shipping is nearly as expensive as the crab cakes, so we order several meals’ worth. We eat some when they arrive, then freeze the rest. We don’t use tartar sauce with the crab, but Michaels’ tartar is so good that we get some with the order anyway, then have some fish just so that we can enjoy it.
The frozen cakes, which come in either 5 or 10 ounce sizes (and we’ve since figured out that since the prices are basically the same per ounce, the smaller cakes are better because they’re a little more cohesive–the sheer mass of the larger cake threatening to pull them apart), take about ten minutes to thaw and cook in the oven. Last Friday, we put together a delicious meal in less than 20 minutes, with very little effort. While the crab cakes were cooking, we steamed some local asparagus in one pot and corn on the cob in another. The most time-consuming part of the meal planning was deciding what to drink.
I’m of a number of minds when it comes to what to drink Maryland crab cakes (by the way, don’t be fooled by ‘Maryland style’ on a menu—there’s always too much breading and not enough Old Bay). There’s the buttery flavor of the crab, with which a nice sparkler goes well. We’re also fond of drinking rosé Champagnes with them. Because Old Bay is pretty spicy, something with a good residual sweetness, like an Australian Shiraz makes a nice contrast. Although California Zinfandel
also has some sweetness to it, it also has a powerful tannic structure that clashes too much. Finally, there’s always Pinot Noir, one of the easiest wines to pair with food of any kind.
In this case, we chose 2008 Sea Smoke Pinot Noir Southing, one of the few remaining bottles from our allocation. This wine was the crowd favorite at our “Drink Our Allocation” party a while back, and continues to show strongly. From the rich nose of black cherry to the great mouthfeel to the wonderful palate of expressive fruits backed with ample spice to the finish that won’t finish, this is a strong effort. If you have the chance to acquire some, don’t pass it up.
The prep time for this meal was brief, but the enjoyment lasted all night long. Sometimes, that’s just what you need.