Aug 29, 2016

Chesapeake Crab Cakes

Last spring, when I posted about our Passover plans, a friend asked me how I make matzah balls. I think she assumed the recipe had been handed down from generation to generation, leaving the shtetl with my great great grandmother and making its way through Ellis Island to New York and ending up in DC when my parents moved down after Dad finished law school. But no - my mother taught me to make matzah balls from the true font of Jewish wisdom: the back of the Manischewitz matzo meal canister.

So, when Jon and I found ourselves with two pounds of lump crab meat left over from my birthday party, I turned to a similarly trusted source for my crab cake recipe: the Old Bay website.

You probably know that Maryland is famous for blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay. What you might not know, though, is that our blue crabs cannot reach their full post-mortem potential of amazingness without a generous shake of Old Bay seasoning. Old Bay is a blend of 18 spices, including paprika and celery salt, and it's good on everything. (Try a sprinkle on top of deviled eggs - it's delish!) But the little yellow tin is particularly perfect for steamed blue crabs and, though the crabs we picked up from the Bethesda Crab House last night were already liberally doused in Old Bay, I added even more when I made our crab cakes.

Besides doubling the recipe, I only made two changes to the ingredient list as written below. We had rolls left over from the party that needed to be used up; because they're potato rolls and were still fresh, I didn't feel the need to soak them in milk. And then I subbed fresh parsley, chopped, for the parsley flakes. Okay, and I used the lemon and herb version of Old Bay because I figured the crabs had already gotten a strong enough dunk in the classic stuff. But otherwise... crab cakes and football, my friends. That's what Maryland does.

Classic Old Bay Crab Cakes
from the OLD BAY website; this is the original recipe that appeared on the back of the Old Bay tin

2 slices dried bread, crusts removed
small amount of milk
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon McCormick® Parsley Flakes
1 teaspoon Old Bay® Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
1 pound lump crabmeat

Break bread into small pieces in large bowl. Moisten with milk. Add mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce; mix well. Add remaining ingredients; mix lightly. Shape into 4 patties.

Refrigerate patties 30 minutes to help keep them together when cooking.

Broil or fry until golden-brown on both sides.

(I made 18 medium-sized crab cakes, which went into the freezer for when we need a taste of summer once the weather's turned, and two small ones that Jon and I ate right away with some of the leftover ratatouille salad from the party.)

Aug 23, 2016

Washington National Cathedral at Sunset

In September 1991, I started school on the Close; in June 2004, 76 of my classmates and I processed down the nave of Washington National Cathedral to the manic arpeggios of Widor's Toccata on the organ and, streaming out of the doors at the west end, threw our white caps in the air and said goodbye to Mount Saint Alban.

Except, of course, most of us didn't, not entirely, and I certainly haven't. After thirteen years as a student there, seven of which were spent in the choir program, I can't imagine who I'd be without the spiritual influence of the Cathedral. I try to go to Evensong every month or so when the choristers are in session, plus the Christmas service of Lessons and Carols, and am still awed every time I walk into the magnificent building.

Last night, Jon and I had the opportunity to understand the Cathedral from a unique perspective: we were part of a small group touring the damage that resulted from a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Washington, DC five years ago today. The earthquake, which lasted less than a minute, caused $34 million worth of damage. $10 million has been raised and all of the structural and internal repairs have been completed, but 87% of the external work remains and the Cathedral is actively seeking the rest of the funding needed to finish the restoration.

It hurts to see broken finials and cracked buttresses, but the mastery of the stonemasons is absolutely incredible and it was amazing to explore what they've already accomplished from the halfway up the central tower. Experiencing the Cathedral, all the work that went into making it what it is and all the work that continues to be done - well, it was glorious.