Crab cakes are one of those rare foods that are as comfortable as an appetizer as they are an entree. On top of that, they lend themselves equally well to elegant accompaniments and more ordinary sides. This versatility makes a crab cake menu fairly easy to design for any occasion and any crowd.
Menu Option 1: Educational Eats
Turn the dinner table into an educational opportunity by planning a menu around foods made famous by certain American states. Maryland crab cakes, Idaho mashed potatoes, Iowa corn-on-the-cob and fresh fruit salad that includes California grapes and Hawaiian pineapple creates a menu that highlights foods from across the United States. Finish up the meal with Georgia-inspired peach pie or cobbler. Include a food that is popular from your state or some locally grown produce to show kids how your area is a part of the country's food culture.
Menu Option 2: An APPetizing Menu
For an occasion that calls for a menu that appeals to grownups and kids alike, serve miniature crab cakes alongside other bite-sized favorites. Mini grilled cheese sandwiches, tiny quiche and fresh fruits are finger foods that diners of all ages can enjoy, while adults and adventurous younger eaters appreciate the addition of small bites like melon wrapped with prosciutto or a warm, creamy artichoke dip and crackers. Include tartar sauce for kids and a zesty aioli (a garlicky mayonnaise) for adults to enjoy with their crab cakes. These sauces and dips can all be made easily by starting with mayonnaise or ranch dressing and adding chopped artichokes, sweet relish, or pressed garlic, respectively. Carry the finger-food theme forward by serving chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert. Sparkling cider for the kids and champagne for the grownups create a vibe that's both sophisticated and kid friendly.
Menu Option 3: Bounty of the Sea
A pirate- or mermaid-themed birthday party deserves a menu straight from the briny deep. Crab cakes can be substantial enough to serve for a main course, or serve mini crab cakes with other seafood delights like popcorn shrimp, clam chowder or beer-battered fish fillets. French fries, coleslaw and fruit complete this delicious, party-friendly meal. If you have guests who are allergic to shellfish or picky eaters, have a quick non-seafood option like hot dogs stashed in the refrigerator as a backup plan.
Menu Option 4: Seasonal Seafood
Taking fresh crab meat and forming it into homemade crab cakes results in a delicious meal. Crab season depends on where the crabs are caught; the Pacific Dungeness crab season starts in early November and ends in June, though crabs reach peak flavor and availability in late December and early January. Atlantic soft-shell crabs are harvested from May through July. Ask the clerk at your local seafood counter to clean and crack the crabs for you to save time and eliminate mess in the kitchen. Pair homemade crab cakes with dishes that highlight other seasonal foods from your region. What's in season will vary by region. Crab cakes are traditionally served with yellow mustard and saltines in the Chesapeake Bay region, though creamy dressing makes a good dipping sauce too. The key is not to overwhelm the delicate crab flavor.
Hailing from California, Ann Mazzaferro is a professional writer who has written for "The Pacifican," "Calliope Literary Magazine" and presented at the National Undergraduate Literature Conference. Mazzaferro graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of the Pacific.