There is a commonly held belief in the culinary world that cheese and seafood should not cross paths. And there is some sound reasoning behind this belief. Strong cheese overpowers the delicate flavors of most kinds of seafood. Reasonable logic, sensible even. But as much as I want to believe and adhere to this piece of culinary gospel my love of tuna melts won’t let me. My mom’s scallop crepes with parmesan cream sauce prevent me. The prevalent popularity of lobster Mac and cheese leaves me with questions. And today’s Crab Cake Patty Melts makes me want to throw the whole notion out the window. If these sandwiches are wrong, well, I don’t want to be right.
So what are these Crab Cake Patty Melts all about? Well, to answer that question, I have to be sure we’re all up to speed on what traditional patty melts are. A patty melt is a diner classic that dates back to at least the 1940s. The sandwich consists of a cheese-topped hamburger patty, usually Swiss, accented with caramelized onions and smooshed between two slices of toasted rye bread. It’s a solid sandwich, I like it a lot. In fact, I have a version closer to the original patty melt on this blog. Make sure you check it out if you’re not feeling the seafood angle.
Now that we know what a patty melt is, let’s tackle what a Crab Cake Patty Melt is. This sandwich features a classic crab cake topped with a slice of Jarlsberg cheese. The crab cake is paired with Old Bay mayo and pickled fennel and sandwiched between two slices of toasted light rye. I threw in some nice green lettuce as well because you gotta have a little extra crunch and probably some greens.
Now, I’m about to give some decidedly unfoodie-like advice. You don’t have to use the best crab for these cakes. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you want to treat yourself to jumbo lump crab meat, be my guest. Because yes, I do think it is well worth the spend. But I don’t know if this is the dish to shell out (pun intended) the big bucks for. These are not stand-alone crab cakes. They’re paired with Old Bay mayo, pickled fennel and are sandwiched between two slices of toasty rye bread. And don’t forget that slice of Jarlsberg they’re sporting. Quite simply, you will likely lose the nuances of premium crab meat in all that noise. So keep that quality blue crab for when you’re serving crab cakes up solo.
But having said all that, I don’t think this is the place for canned crab meat either. Look for a happy medium – like special crabmeat. Canned crab meat is pressure heated or pasteurized to extend its shelf life. This results in drier and tougher crab meat. Refrigerated and frozen crab meat is processed at much lower temperatures resulting in a more tender and juicier texture.
Now, I took the advice of Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction and baked my crab cakes. While I certainly know my way around a fish cake, I can’t compete with a Maryland resident when it comes to crab cakes. The baking approach made the crab cakes a lot easier to form. And since I wasn’t frying them, I didn’t have to worry about them breaking apart when I flipped them. And since I didn’t have to flip them, I didn’t have to overdo it with the binding ingredients. These cakes are pretty much pure crab with a few saltines, an egg, and a little mayo thrown in for good measure.
As I mentioned, I topped my crab cakes with Jarlsberg. But feel free to swap it out for any cheese you might fancy. I think Jarlsbery works here because it’s quite a mild cheese, so it doesn’t overpower the crab. Plus, it gets a gold star for me in terms of melt-ability. And that’s pretty important – the word “melt” is in the title of this recipe after all. But again, it’s totally up to you.
I must say, the pickled fennel is pretty much non-negotiable. It brings so much flavor to these Crab Cake Patty Melts and it could not be simpler to put together. So while the pickling process does take a little time, it’s well worth the forethought and patience. As far as the Old Bay mayo goes, it is also a must-have addition to these sandwiches. You could swap it for regular tartar sauce, but I think the mayo is more appropriate here.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Crab Cake Patty Melts with Pickled Fennel. Loaded with a host of contrasting flavors and textures, this sandwich delivers the crab shack experience sandwiched between two slices of rye.
Crab Cake Patty Melts with Pickled Fennel
- 1 Small Baking Sheet
- 1 Large mason jar
- 1 mandolin
- Parchment Paper
- ½ head fennel shaved with a mandolin
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 12-14 black peppercorns
Old Bay Mayo
- ½ cup mayo
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp Old Bay
- ¼ cup mayo
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard heaping
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp Old Bay
- 454g (1lb) crab meat ** defrosted
- 20 saltine crackers crumbled
- ¼ cup fresh parsley finely chopped
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter melted
Crab Cake Patty Melts
- 4 slices Jarlsberg cheese
- 1 batch Crab Cakes see above
- 1 batch Pickled Fennel see above
- 8 slices light rye bread toasted
- 1 head green lettuce washed, leaves separated
- 1 avocado cut into wedges
For the Pickled Fennel
- Pack the fennel into a large jar. Add the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and peppercorns. Seal the jar and give it a good shake. Set aside to pickle for 3 hours at room temperature or in the fridge overnight.½ head fennel, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, 12-14 black peppercorns
For the Old Bay Mayo
- Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.½ cup mayo, 1 clove garlic, 2 tsp lemon juice, ½ tsp Old Bay
For the Crab Cakes
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- Place the mayo, egg, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the crab meat, crackers, and parsley. Stir to combine. Cover and let chill for 30 minutes.¼ cup mayo, 1 large egg, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp Old Bay
- Divide the chilled crab mixture into four patties and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle the cakes with the butter and transfer them to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.2 tbsp unsalted butter
For the Crab Cake Patty Melts
- Turn on the broiler. Place a slice of Jarlsberg on each crab cake and return them to the oven. Broil until the cheese melts, about a minute or two.4 slices Jarlsberg cheese, 1 batch Crab Cakes
- Spread the Old Bay mayo on the slices of rye. Top the bottom slices with a pile of the pickled fennel. Add the crab cake and top with a few leaves of green lettuce and a couple of wedges of avocado. Place the remaining slice of rye on top and serve immediately.1 batch Pickled Fennel, 8 slices light rye bread, 1 head green lettuce, 1 avocado