Posts Tagged ‘tartar sauce’

Paris’s Crab Cakes and Tartar Sauce

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

It is a fall evening and the sun has set. Outside our window, New York City’s skyline is lit up with a wide range of colors: yellows, reds, blues. Rhianna’s slow sultry voice hums through my speaker, and Paris and I begin to make crab cakes and tartar sauce. 

Crab was once thought to be a shellfish that was too difficult to eat. However, blue crab was plentiful in the Chesapeake Bay, and people from Maryland began to utilize the resource by mixing crab meat with spices, bread crumbs, and crackers. Crosby Caige came up with the name “crab cakes” in 1930. The recipe made its way into the New York World Fair Cook Book in 1939 and was called the “Baltimore Crab Cakes,”(History).

To accompany our cakes, we decided to make tartar sauce. While I scavenge in the fridge, Paris reads off ingredients. 

“We need mayo, mustard, pickle juice…” She reads off a recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen. 

Paris is from Ocean City and is a sophomore at NYU Tisch. The first time we spoke we talked about spirituality, taxidermy, and her podcast That’s What She Said. Frequently caught up in her thoughts, Paris is very passionate and open-minded. She also has a great sense of music (her Spotify has a playlist for every mood). A fun side note is her full name is Paris Monet Hitchens, which suggests she is destined for France at one time or another. 

Despite the seemingly perfect evening, there is an exhaustion that has consumed our apartment. It is the day after election day, and everyone has been checking results every hour. We are all eager for a distraction from politics–cooking provides this respite. 

Paris tells me about how her parents are both seafood lovers, and of how crab ball horderves are a must for Christmas Eve dinner. However, the dish is mostly reminiscent of her mother. “It reminds me of coming home from school. Sometimes I would have practices, mostly school plays, and I would come home late. I would walk in and smell food cooking, and my mom would yell out “I’m making crab cakes! What else do you want with it?” They just really remind me of my mom.” 

When I inquire about a family recipe, Paris tells me that her mother once had a fantastic recipe that was passed down by a family friend. Unfortunately, her mother lost the slip of paper and has been trying to recreate it ever since. Currently, she always uses the recipe “Maryland Crab Cakes” for a basic structure. However, there is one personal touch that Paris and her mom always add: Adobo.

Adobo is immensely popular in our apartment. Many seasonings sit by our stovetop, and on most days I hear someone say, “let me just add some adoooobo!” 

If anyone else is in the common space, you can count on a back and forth: 




While I chop the pickles and rosemary, Paris mixes the mayo, mustard, and spices. She works with confidence and is not afraid to add a lot of flavor. This style of cooking mirrors her mother’s methods. Paris tells me that when her mom cooks she always works using the basic structure of a recipe, and then adds more spices. 

“She knows she can always make it better with more flavor.” 

When I sample the sauce, I taste the fresh rosemary and tang of Worcester sauce. There is a slight sweetness from the brown sugar, and while the flavors are certainly heightened, they are also balanced. It is the best tartar sauce I’ve ever had. 

Paris’s delicious tartar sauce!

Straying from the recipe and cooking for your palette is new to me. I watched both Alison and Dorothea do the same when we cooked together. While I understand the value of cooking for your taste, I find that I love following recipes. In the last few weeks, I experimented with cooking based on my gut. I found that it didn’t bring me as much satisfaction as following a recipe. Lining up ingredients and following recipe instructions make me feel like I have accomplished something.

Sometimes I also don’t know what flavor I want to bring out. Food can be over salted. However, can there ever be too much parsley, rosemary, or oregano? What makes food taste good? From the balance in flavors in the tartar sauce, I’m thinking that strong flavors that are balanced make for the best food. If strong balanced flavors are the best, I contemplate why recipe engineers always call for 1-2 teaspoons of spice. My guess is 1) this is a convenient estimate and 2) less seasoning will appeal to more people.

After putting the tartar sauce away, I chop crab and scallions while Paris mixes dry ingredients (Paris isn’t a fan of chopping). I watch her mix everything and shape it into a ball. 

Our crab cake mix.
Raw crab cake patties.

While we sit at the table shaping the mixture into patties, I ask Paris why she cooks. 

 “I like cooking because it distracts me–especially now. Also, with different recipes, you can add your own mix to it. You follow it, but there’s nothing like putting your own twist to it and making it to your own taste. I make food for me.”

With the election, covid, and other anxiety-provoking crises, it has been made clear that distractions are needed. Last week Dorothea was talking about how she loves to bake because it’s fun, which reminded me of the importance of enjoying small pleasures. Paris’s call for cooking distractions reminds me once more of the importance of getting carried away by hobbies. 

Paris also tells me about how cooking brings people together. She says that with all of us spending so much time in the apartment, cooking together is a small act that reflects what our lives at home are like, which somehow leads to confessions and revelations of our deepest darkest secrets. 

From our conversations, I walk away with the following thoughts:

1. Balance Flavor. I am going to start adding more herbs and spices to my food–I will also pay attention to how spices complement each other. 

2. Distraction.  Cooking was a great distraction from the election.

3. Connection. Paris talked about how cooking together bonds people. This is an idea I am very passionate about–I am most connected with my family members, and the most sacred time we spend together is over a meal. 

For the final step, I leave Paris to fry the patties while I go to the store to buy a bottle of wine. As soon as I walk outside our building, I feel the election anxiety return. I walk by boarded-up stores and pass outdoor restaurants with televisions playing live election results. 

Frying the crab cakes.

When I return to the apartment, everyone sits down and eats together. Paris’s remarks on cooking and relationships stick with me, and we all spend the rest of the evening relaxing. 

Final product.

“History of the Maryland Crab Cake.” Boxhill Crabcakes, 27 Apr. 2015,

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By: Erin Zubarik

Hello! My name is Erin Zubarik and I am a junior at New York University majoring in Global Liberal Studies and minoring in Chinese and Italian. Over the last few years I have been lucky enough to study abroad in Florence and Beijing, where I enhanced my language skills and became acquainted with lovely people. This fall I am primarily holed up in my apartment taking online classes, and playing with my hamster Pork Chop. I am very excited to share my cooking and relationships series this fall on Campus Clipper! 

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