A for Any Menu Crab Cake

A Crab Cake
for Any Menu
There’s simply no reason not to menu a crab
cake, thanks to a budget-friendly variety of
high-flavor, economical crab meat grades.
By Dennis Gavagan
Corporate Executive Chef
Phillips Foods
Fall 2007
Seafood mentions (including fish and shellfish) on menus at the 200 largest restaurant
chains in America increased 47 percent over the past five years, according to Wheaton,
IL–based menu-database company Food Beat. But did you know that crab is the
second-most frequently mentioned shellfish on those menus? And that more than half
of the chains that menu crab serve it as a crab cake in appetizer, entrée and sandwich
applications? Given the lower menu prices that chains can comfortably charge, many of
those crab cakes are made with crab meat other than the premium jumbo lump grade.
This opportunity isn’t confined to chains—an independent operator
can create and serve a delicious signature crab cake profitably and
without skimping on quality. When grades other than jumbo lump
are sourced for quality and used right, crab cakes can be a win for
your patrons and your profit margins. The sample prices below
are based on market prices at the time of writing; they should be
considered a good representation of relative cost.
• Backfin. Backfin is a blend of broken pieces of jumbo lump and
special-grade crab meat, yielding a delectably flaky consistency at a
lower cost. If you make your crab cake exclusively with backfin and
it consists of 65 percent crab meat, a 4-ounce cake will be $2.44 of
your plate cost.
• Special. Often considered the most versatile grade for the widest
range of recipes, special crab meat consists of the smaller flakes of
white meat from the body of the crab. It has the same bright-white
color and delicate flavor as backfin and jumbo lump, but costs
less by weight. A 4-ounce crab cake consisting of 65 percent crab
meat—all special grade—will be $2.01 of your plate cost.
• Claw. Picked from the swimming fins of the crab, claw meat is a
dark meat with a sweeter flavor profile and denser, firmer texture.
With a cost of only $1.53 for a 4-ounce cake prepared with
65 percent crab meat, claw allows any operation, no matter the size
of the average check, to serve one of Americans’ favorite dishes.
There’s no reason not to blend these different grades of crab meat.
You can experiment with blending different crab meat grades; the
white meat of backfin lends itself to delicate sauces, whereas the
dark meat of claw can hold up to more intense and vigorous flavors.
Ideally, a 3-to-1 ratio of white to dark crab meat will give any crab
cake concoction a delightfully rich crab flavor.
Finally, as with any recipe, the better the ingredients, the better your
final product. If you start with premium crab meat, your crab cake is
bound to taste delicious!
Fall 2007
Regional Crab Cake Inspirations
• Give crab cakes a Southwestern spin
by resting a 4-ounce cake atop celeryroot slaw spiked with orange juice; top
it with a drizzle of avocado cream and a
quenelle of roasted-tomato relish.
• For Asian inspiration, blend crab meat
with fresh grated ginger, cilantro,
chopped green onion and lime juice, and
plate with a colorful combo of sweet-andsour and Chinese hot-mustard sauces.
• A lemon-scented crab cake placed
atop ratatouille and crowned with fennel
salad and garlicky aïoli mayonnaise
tastes of sun-splashed Provence in
southern France.
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