All on a Mardi Gras Day: Feelin’ Fine with Toya Boudy’s Crab Cakes

The New Orleans cook shares a recipe from her new book, her secret to delectable crab cakes and what locals actually do on Fat Tuesday. Plus 13 wines to get the party rolling

All on a Mardi Gras Day: Feelin’ Fine with Toya Boudy’s Crab Cakes
Author and educator Toya Boudy has gone from corner-store cooking to appearances on the Food Network and Hallmark Channel. (Courtesy of W.W. Norton)
Feb 17, 2023

In her new cookbook, Cooking for the Culture: Recipes and Stories from the Streets of New Orleans to the Table (Countryman Press), Toya Boudy traces the culinary history and traditions of the Black community in the Big Easy. Moving beyond beignets and Bourbon Street, hot sauce and Hurricanes, Boudy aims to show the distinctive style of home cooking that she grew up with.

“There’s a more full-bodied flavor that comes from home cooking in New Orleans,” explains Boudy. “A lot of things are brought down a significant amount of notches for the tourists that aren't used to the flavors and the seasonings. I think everyone should go to the touristy spots, but then find time in the daytime to go to the hood where they’re cooking the food that isn’t shown on TV.”

It’s clear through talking to Boudy how much she loves New Orleans. She got her start in food during high school working at a corner store, slinging po’ boys. “You can buy t-shirts, underwear, food, anything,” says Boudy “Some of the best food comes from the corner store.” For her cookbook, she wanted to include recipes for those neighborhood staples and the types of food eaten on the regular: barbeque shrimp, seafood gumbo, buttermilk turkey wings, crawfish bisque and yakamein.

Boudy is a testament to resilience and self-confidence, working her way from that corner store to culinary school to TV appearances on the Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games and the Hallmark Channel. She’s the first to recognize the abundance in her current life; that’s why she has a tattoo of a cluster of grapes on her arm.

After buying her current house, explains Boudy, “In the spring, I thought it was an omen that all of the sudden I saw this vine growing and it was grapes! We bought a house on fruitful land. When I got the grapes tattooed, I looked at them and thought, ‘I will not depart from the vine. I will forever be fruitful.’”

As an educator through Reconstruction.US, Boudy teaches classes on Black history through the medium of food, something that’s apparent just from glancing at her new book. The cover of Cooking for the Culture is striking, with Boudy’s muscular, tattooed arm rising powerfully up through the center; her fingers—tipped with rhinestone-bedecked, sapphire nails—grip a slice of watermelon. “It was done with deep, heartfelt, intentional purpose,” says Boudy. “Me gripping the watermelon in that way, with the juices running down my arm, is because of the narrative that makes people afraid of the idea of using watermelon—they associate it with a lot of negative slurs. … Me snatching the watermelon is me taking it all back.”

While Boudy smilingly calls the Mardi Gras celebrations she experienced growing up “hardcore,” these days she takes it a bit easier, going to the parades that happen before Fat Tuesday, where she and her loved ones camp out underneath a tent and grill for hours. On the actual day, she and her family get out of the city and go on a hike. In the evening, people come over for dinner, and she whips up something upscale yet New Orleanian, like these Louisiana-style crab cakes with a lemon-caper sauce.

Her number one tip? Don’t skimp on the crab. “A film crew was at our house the other day, and [a guy] was taking a picture of the crab cakes and he said, ‘Those are some expensive crab cakes,’ because you can see the crab meat falling out!” chuckles Boudy. “You’ve got to love somebody to make crab cakes; you better be showing off. And you better serve this with some good wine!”

While Boudy enjoys unwinding with a bottle of Moscato, the crab cakes are versatile with a wide range of sparkling and white wines—particularly those with vibrant acidity and citrus or saline notes that naturally complement seafood—as well as with light reds that won't overwhelm the crab meat. Wine Spectator recommends 13 recently rated picks to get the party rolling.

Crab Cakes with Lemon Caper Cream

Excerpted from Cooking for the Culture: Recipes and Stories from the Streets of New Orleans to the Table (Copyright © 2023), courtesy of W.W. Norton


For the Crab Cakes

  • 1 pound lump crabmeat
  • 1⁄2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Zest of 1⁄2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil for cooking

For the Lemon Caper Cream

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2∕3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, more if desired
  • Salt


    For the Crab Cakes

    1. Check every lump of meat, carefully feeling around for any leftover shell fragments. You don’t need to break them apart, just check around the lumps.

    2. Mix all the ingredients for the crab cakes except for the crabmeat and oil in a bowl and whisk well.

    3. Add the crab meat and mix it in well. Break up some of the lumps and leave others in chunks.

    4. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon out equal amounts of crab mixture. Shape the patties but don’t press them tight, just enough to form the shape of a patty.

    5. Preheat a medium nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add the oil.

    6. Let the oil heat up until hot and add the crab cakes. Do not move them after you place them in the pan until ready to flip. Cook the crab cakes for 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serves 4.

    For the Lemon Caper Cream

    1. In a medium skillet, heat the butter, olive oil and garlic on medium heat.

    2. Cook for about a minute, until the garlic softens. Add the heavy cream, bring to a boil, and cook for a couple of minutes, or until the sauce thickens a bit.

    3. Remove from heat. Stir in the capers and lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice, if needed, and salt to taste. Keep covered until serving.

    13 Bead-Worthy Wines

    Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.



    Brut Champagne Réserve Exclusive

    Score: 91 | $39

    WS Review: An elegant, refined red, with silky tannins encasing layers of wild berries and plum, sweet and savory spices. Fresh and balanced, thanks to tangy acidity, pencil shavings and chalky tannins that carry the medium-long finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2028. 22,000 cases made, 6,000 cases imported. From France.–Bruce Sanderson


    Brut Blanc de Blancs Vino Espumoso 2020

    Score: 91 | $23

    WS Review: A firm backbone of Meyer lemon peel acidity frames this vivid sparkler, enmeshed with rich notes of lightly charred toast and smoked almond, backed by flavors of ripe white cherry and peach fruit. Hints of thyme and anise play on the finish. Xarel-lo, Macabeo, Parellada and Malvasia de Sitges. Drink now through 2025. 17,000 cases made, 9,000 cases imported. From Spain.–Alison Napjus



    Pinot Gris Alsace Réserve 2017

    Score: 92 | $33

    WS Review: Beautiful fruit purity to warm peach, spiced apple and quince, with a savory thread of dried green herbs woven throughout. A firm bed of chalky minerals provides ballast, while warm hay and honeycomb play in the backdrop. A dense, serious wine with lots of stuffing. Drink now through 2030. 15,900 cases made, 6,000 cases imported. From France.–Kristen Bieler


    Sancerre Silex 2021

    Score: 92 | $30

    WS Review: Plush yet well-defined, with acacia blossom and succulent nectarine flavors that show a note of honeyed vanilla, supported by a spine of chalky mineral and warm stone on the salty, medium-to-long finish. Drink now through 2025. 1,883 cases made. From France.–A.N.


    Chablis Charlène & Laurent Pinson 2020

    Score: 92 | $27

    WS Review: This is really singing today, featuring peach, ripe apple, oyster shell and almond aromas and flavors. Vibrant and intense, with a lingering chalky sensation. Terrific length. Drink now. 2,000 cases made, 600 cases imported. From France.–B.S.


    Etna White 2021

    Score: 91 | $35

    WS Review: A perfumed white, with white blossoms and ripe fruit on the nose, this is salty and mouthwatering on the palate. Offers a touch of lemon zest enlivening flavors of Asian pear, blanched almond, chamomile and lemon oil. Drink now through 2027. 5,000 cases made, 3,300 cases imported. From Italy.–A.N.


    Malagouzia Florina Turtles Vineyard 2021

    Score: 91 | $24

    WS Review: Graceful and mouthwatering, this light- to medium-bodied white has a salty tang underscoring flavors of pineapple, pink grapefruit granita and accents of verbena and honeysuckle. Creamy finish. Drink now through 2026. 20,000 cases made, 700 cases imported. From Greece.–A.N.


    Viognier Eden Valley Samuel's Collection 2020

    Score: 91 | $24

    WS Review: Generous, but also showing some lovely restraint, with a core of white peach, nectarine and mango flavors tempered by fresh acidity and floral and spice details that stay in the background. The finish features a lingering hint of marzipan. Drink now through 2026. 2,000 cases made, 800 cases imported. From Australia.–M.W.


    Falanghina Beneventano 2021

    Score: 91 | $18

    WS Review: Lovely hints of jasmine, graphite and warm peach waft from the glass of this creamy white. Light- to medium-bodied, with a spine of lemony acidity focusing the concentrated nectarine, yellow apple, stone and blanched almond notes. Drink now through 2025. 7,000 cases made. From Italy.–A.N.


    Godello Bierzo 2021

    Score: 90 | $19

    WS Review: Linear and salty, this vibrant white features floral accents to the nectarine, preserved lemon and crushed almond flavors. Snappy, lightly spiced finish. Godello and Doña Blanca. Drink now. 6,600 cases made, 500 cases imported. From Spain.–A.N.


    Riesling Eden Valley Dry 2021

    Score: 90 | $18

    WS Review: Intense and complex, with fresh grated lime zest, pear, toasted herb and Fuji apple flavors that show notes of candied ginger and beeswax on the long, expressive finish. Drink now. 40,000 cases made, 6,000 cases imported. From Australia.–M.W.



    Etna 2020

    Score: 91 | $29

    WS Review: A pleasingly plush red, harmonious and medium-bodied, with macerated strawberry, warm spice, dried thyme, smoke and orange peel acidity deftly knit with fine, creamy tannins. Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Drink now through 2029. 11,000 cases made, 3,300 cases imported. From Italy.–A.N.


    Juliénas Tradition 2020

    Score: 90 | $23

    WS Review: Crushed cherry and candied violet notes are streaked with smoke and tar undertones in this sleek, alluring red. Snappy acidity drives energy on the silky palate, with talc-fine tannins guiding the finish. Drink now through 2025. 1,500 cases made, 500 cases imported. From France.–K.B.

Food Holidays / Celebrations Cooking Red Wines Sparkling Wines black-voices

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