Just for fun, I often ask people, “What’s your favorite meal?” It’s a conversation starter or a way to get to know someone better. We’re often identified by or known for the things we like best. As in, “I’m a chocoholic” or “I don’t drink coffee to wake up. I wake up to drink coffee.” I am no longer surprised to discover many people answer, “Burgers” or “Burgers and fries” because it’s happened so many times. (Pizza comes in a fast and close second.) You have to wonder why and I have. I think it’s because we are 1. a going-out-to-eat country and burgers are — in case you hadn’t noticed — everywhere in the fast food world. They’re even on top-shelf restaurant menus because you never know when someone goes out to a swank spot if they’ll still crave a big ol’ cheeseburger with ketchup and onions. In other words, we can eat these warm, tender sandwiches (hardly any chewing involved) out of hand–like small children– easily and quickly, maybe even cheaply. and 2. Burgers are synonymous with months of outdoor cooking, whether just for dinner or at parties, picnics, and celebrations. I like a good home-grilled burger a time or two in the summer but rarely order one out the rest of the year. Always watching my red meat intake and the calories associated with a restaurant burger are typically above my lunch limit. But give me a veggie burger of any sort or a fish burger anywhere at all and I’m a happy, happy puppy. Lent seems to give me the excuse to figure out a new fish or even seafood burger every year and this time, with crab calling my name from the fridge after making crab pizza last week, there was little question about what I was making.
In 2005’s Hamburgers and Fries, John T. Edge went so far as to say that burgers are “modernity encapsulated, an entire meal stuffed into a streamlined vessel and ready for portage.” THE ATLANTIC (April, 2018 by Suzy Swartz)
I don’t think I’d ever made crab burgers before, but how hard could it be? I’d made crab cakes a few times and why wouldn’t that process work for burgers? They would cook a lot like salmon burgers, I guessed. Crab cakes sound a little more like appetizers –though I like them on salad for a meal — so I’d think about making them a little larger so they wouldn’t get lost on the bun.
Making a crab burger isn’t as easy as making a beef or even a turkey burger, but it’s not much harder. Instead of adding only salt and pepper and …. (whatever else you add at home), there’s bread and/or cracker crumbs to include along with an egg which will bind the crab together with its seasonings and keep it from falling apart in the pan. You’ll still have to be careful cooking it or it may yet end up in pieces. A few minutes in the fridge — or even a couple of hours–will let the crab meat and crumbs absorb some of the liquids so it will hold together. There are more seasonings for crab, too. Here I include some Dijon-style mustard, a little onion, lemon zest, parsley for color and freshness, as well as the usual salt, pepper, and hot sauce. You can adjust these seasonings as you like and to make sure the burger is made to your taste, taste a little of the mixture before you cook it. The crab is cooked already and the tiny bit of egg shouldn’t pose a problem. If it’s bland, you can add more salt and pepper, hot sauce, or even lemon zest or juice. Or, should you really want it jazzy, consider including perkier toppings like sliced onions, pickles, peperoncini, sliced jalapeños, or? Just don’t overburden the crab; it’s a light and simple taste that doesn’t need to be overwhelmed. It won’t need much.
TOO EXPENSIVE? Perhaps you're thinking crab costs too much and I'll admit it's a tad pricey-- though it's also a treat and not everyday fare. I'll also say that you get what you pay for (zero waste/healthful) and, in this case, a pound of crab -- at around $25. -- goes a long way making crab cakes, burgers, salad, crab spread or chili. At 6 and change per burger, (and you get four out of a pound) it's cheaper than a lot of fast food burgers, a Chipotle burrito, or a shrimp basket at Culver's.
A cooking note: Do fry your crab burgers in a skillet or on a griddle instead on a grill or in a grill pan. They’re happier in a flat surface where they’ll brown quickly and are more likely to hold together. Turn them carefully with a thin (fish) spatula, if you have one, and using your hands to help accomplish the gentle flip. If they come apart, oh well. They’ll still eat.
About those burger buns: Buttered and grilled buns served warm are so many heads and shoulders above a room temperature bun that they’re worth whatever it takes to get them. (Isn’t that part of the allure of restaurant burgers? Soft and warm buns?) The heat will also revitalize a bun that’s become a little stale or even one you’ve had to freeze. (Don’t freeze them for long; they just crumble.) If you don’t have a stove top grill pan –and you should have at least one — you can use a griddle or a large skillet. Lately I’ve been splurging on brioche buns once in a while though typically I stick with the best whole wheat version I can find. Because health.
Sides might be the typical happy burger accompaniments. I made Air Fryer French Fries and some coleslaw for a sweet Lenten splurge. Maybe you’ll want a green salad or a scoop of beans instead when you try this:
- 1 pound crab meat–lump or claw-picked over for shells
- 8 Ritzcrackers crushed finely (Place in gallon bag and pound with a rolling pin or wine bottle.)
- 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
- 4 scallions, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
- Several drops hot sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
- 4 toasted hamburger buns
- Tartar sauce or Sriracha mayo and/or lettuce and tomato for serving
- Mix ingredients (crab – crushed red pepper) together well; taste and adjust seasonings.
- Form crab mixture first into 4 balls, patting together, and then into patties. If mixture won’t form balls or patties, let sit a few minutes so that the crumbs absorb the moisture. You can even stick it in the fridge for 15 minutes if needed.
- Heat butter and oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet.
- Carefully place patties in pan. Fry on one side 3-5 minutes until very brown; gently turn over and cook other side another few minutes until it, too, is well-browned.
- Serve hot on toasted buns with tartar sauce or Sriracha mayo and lettuce and tomato. Store leftovers tightly covered for a day or two in the refrigerator.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans consume an average of 2.4 burgers per day, which is about 50 billion burgers per year. And that fact is just one of many about the food that will not only blow your mind but make your mouth water. ~Hamburger Facts/YAHOO
LIFE GOES ON:
When you get to celebrate your daughter’s birthday seeing the NY Metropolitan Opera perform “Falstaff” live in Colorado (shown at movie theaters all over) and then go out to lunch. Thanks and sigh. What a production. What fun.
As Holy Week goes on, I’m working on a KIDS BAKE EASTER coffee cake for the blog, as well as trying to get ready for a week on the beach in Florida with our extended family. I think the coffee cake will go up in a day or so and then I’ll be ready to hop on a plane heading south to warm sand, crashing waves, and coffee with my sister.
Thanks for hanging in there for FRIDAY FISH, 2023. Every year I’m amazed at how much fun I have pulling together easy fish and seafood recipes and how much I appreciate doing that. I’m not sure I’d otherwise focus quite so much on fish. Sometimes we need a reason. A prod. True. Hope you, too have enjoyed the series.
Whether it’s Passover or Holy Week or something else for you, I wish you time with your loved ones and healthy food ongoing,