Growing up in the landlocked Midwest, I didn’t have much occasion for eating crab cakes. I’d come across them occasionally at a national seafood chain or on an adventurous local menu, but I never felt I was really missing out: my general, underwhelming impression of the dish was of either dry, starchy blandness, or of oily fishiness. And it was always seemingly comprised more of breadcrumbs than of anything identifiable as crab.
But then I made the East Coast move and was suddenly surrounded by fresh fish and shellfish. I took incredible pleasure in all the bounty the Atlantic had to offer, and finally experiencing real crab cakes was an eye-opener. Bursting with juicy lumps of sweet crab meat and coated in a light, non-greasy layer of crisp crumbs, I could have eaten them every day — and I would have, if I didn’t start eating gluten free shortly thereafter.
The answer came a few years ago, when I started substituting almond meal for breading in my meatballs. Right away I leapt to the logical realization that I could do the same for crab cakes. The ground almonds in my version increase the recipe’s protein content while cutting down on filling carbs, with the added bonus that almond meal absorbs moisture without becoming starchy, providing structure while keeping the cakes moist and tender. It works beautifully as a coating too, and I mix mine with a 2:1 ratio of cornmeal to up the crunch factor.