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Families and friends will soon be gathering to cheer on their favorite teams in the season’s pinnacle match-ups. To ensure guests have enough energy to ride out the drama, hosts should provide plenty of food.

Finger foods are preferential on game days because they are easy to grab and eat by hand, especially when clamoring for space in a crowd. Sliders or cheese sticks are go-to options, but for a more gourmet offering, think about crab cakes. These “Best Crab Cakes Ever,” as they are billed in “BBQ Revolution” (Harvard Common Press) by Mitch Benjamin, are a tasty change of pace.

Best Crab Cakes Ever
Makes 6

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon
2 celery ribs, minced
1⁄2 yellow onion, minced
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, preferably toasted, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 pounds smoked jumbo lump crabmeat
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 large eggs
26 Ritz crackers, crushed
Vegetable oil, for pan-frying
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 lemons, cut into wedges for garnish

Heat a stick of butter in a small pot over low heat until the solids separate. Skim off the white foam that rises to the top with a little ladle and pour the clear butter aside to cool.

In another small pot, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and add the minced celery and onion as well as the 1⁄2 teaspoon of black pepper and the 1 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning. Cover and sweat this over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are nice and soft. It’s going to smell amazing, but don’t start eating now!

Remove the veggies from the heat and let them cool down. Transfer the veggies plus the clarified butter and the hot sauce into a large mixing bowl. Add the crab and heavy whipping cream and mix gently. The worst thing you could do here is overmix the crab and break up the fat lumps you just paid a premium for.

Cover and place this mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes or so. Remove and form the mix into 5-ounce balls (the size of a snowball) in your hands. Again, be gentle; you aren’t packing these snowballs for war. You should be able to get six good ones out of the mix. Cover in plastic wrap and then return to the freezer for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. You need to get these nice and cold since you aren’t using any filler/binder in these crab cakes.

While the mix is chilling, whip your eggs in a small mixing bowl with a crack of freshly ground black pepper. Add the crushed Ritz crackers to another bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning. Go ahead and preheat the oven to 350 F for later.

Remove the frozen crab cakes from the freezer and dunk them in the egg and then into the seasoned Ritz crumble mix. Cover completely. Repeat with all the crab cakes and set aside. Get about 1⁄8 inch of your vegetable oil ripping hot in a cast iron pan over coals on the grill. I like to cook these crab cakes outside in order to keep the oil smell from taking over the kitchen. There’s nothing better than a cast iron skillet over hot coals. If you must, place over your gas stove at home. Get it hot. I like to drip water droplets in to see when the oil is hot enough. The droplets will sizzle and pop, and that’s how you know it’s ready.

Carefully drop the crab cakes in the pan and press down on them lightly just to slightly flatten them so they appear a little more cake-like and lay nicely on your plate. Fry for 4 to 5 minutes on each side until you have made a perfect golden crust (don’t burn the outside). Then, put the entire cast iron skillet in the oven for 20 minutes. If desired, you can use a fish spatula or slotted spoon to transfer the cakes to a baking sheet — and leave the oil smell outside.

After 20 minutes, remove from the oven and plate up!

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