People often ask me how I came up with the idea for my Pretzel Crusted Crab Cakes. Sometimes my innovative dishes evolve over time but this one happened while I was at a bar having a drink, eating pretzel sticks, and writing my menu. The sticks were crispy and delicious, and I laid them out on the plate like a raft. I thought if I place some crab on the pretzel sticks and add a top with another layer of pretzel sticks, I’d have a raft. The idea was great because pretzels are coated on the outside so they don’t absorb the oil when frying like bread does. My guests love the fact that there is no breading in the crab mixture. But of course, like many popular dishes that taste great, there is plenty of butter and mayonnaise! The cakes are very, very labor intensive. To complete the design and keep the theme running throughout the dish, we coat the sides with rice pearls adding another visual and textural level as the crunchy pearls look like barnacles. Chives are blanched and used to decoratively tie the raft together. My crab cakes are a perfect “design” dish and one, like many of my other dishes, copied all over the world.

I like to use Pretz pretzel sticks but you can use American brands. The reason I chose Pretz is because they are the perfect size and they are less salty. We serve the pretzel sticks with mustard oil on the bar at DRIFTHOUSE in Sea Bright. Purchase the best lump crab meat you can find. Yes, it is expensive, but if you ever saw how labor intensive it is to hand-pick the meat from the crabs like Maryland Blue Crabs, you would never whine about paying the price again. Try the recipe below at home or come to DRIFTHOUSE or Orchard Park and order them.

1 tbsp. peanut oil 3/4 cup finely diced onion 1/2 cup finely diced celery 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup mayonnaise 2 lb. lump crabmeat, picked clean of all shell and cartilage
3 tbsp. minced fresh chives 1 tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest
2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning Pinch of cayenne pepper 2 large eggs
1 box Pretz pretzel sticks (preferred brand, can be purchased in Asian gourmet stores or on
1 cup clarified butter
1. Heat oil in a small sautè pan over medium heat.
2. Add onion and celery and saute vegetables for about four minutes, or until they are soft and translucent.
3. Remove onion and celery and drain off and discard excess oil. Set aside.
4. Combine butter (important: use very soft butter) and mayonnaise in a large mixing bowl.
5. Using a handheld electric mixer or a wooden spoon, beat until mixture is well blended and very smooth.
6. Fold in crabmeat, chives, lemon zest, Old Bay, and cayenne along with reserved onions and celery.
7. Cover and refrigerate crab cake mixture for two hours to chill.
8. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
9. Remove crab cake mixture from refrigerator.
10. Line a row of pretzels (about 8) closely together and top with about 1/4 cup of crab mixture.
11. Line top with same amount of pretzels (creating a “raft” appearance).
12. Place pretzel-coated cakes on prepared baking sheet. 13. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until cakes are firm. 14. Heat clarified butter in a large sautè pan over medium heat until it begins to smoke. In batches, using additional butter as needed, fry crab cakes for about three minutes per side, or until they are golden brown. 15. Place them on paper towels to drain. 16. Place crab cakes on a serving platter.

DRIFTHOUSE and Orchard Park by David Burke
1485 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright
670 Cranbury Road, East Brunswick /

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