Mary Anne here. It is difficult to write this intro for two reasons. The first is that I haven’t written or posted in roughly four months so I’m feeling a bit tongue-tied. The second reason is the actual cause of my dry spell – my mom was diagnosed with a terrible, incurable, malignant brain tumor the week of March 4th. As my siblings and I scrambled to find the best possible surgeon and neuro-oncologist for our beloved matriarch, Mariel quickly and deftly assumed the helm of Feast on the Cheap. Enormous hugs and a thank you to my darling daughter.
And so, hopefully you all will bear with me for a moment, as I would like to say a few things about my mom before we get to the reason you are here…a recipe. Actually, the two subjects are intertwined. But before we dish about my dish, allow me to share about the incredible, nearly invincible, ever-courageous Elizabeth Dean Moody Ellicott Freedman. (pictured on the far right, above)
She was an ardent, avid, crazed, Mets fan. Not enough adjectives to paint her passion. Mom loathed the Yankees and was certain that the Mets will win the pennant again. She referred to the Yanks as snakes and swore it was so as they would rise to win – again and again. Her children truly believed that when the Mets swept the Yankees soon after Memorial Day that our Mom was “up there” pulling strings on those Met’s bats!
Elizabeth Freedman was also a converted Jew; by birth she was a true-blue WASP, having been born to a Presbyterian family, but then she met and fell in love with George Freedman, whom she married when I was 11. She was as passionate for Judaism as she was for her Mets and when she passed away Mom was honored with all of the traditions of her faith. The ritual of bathing and preparation was bestowed upon her by the loving hands of the women of her Sisterhood, and then Vassar Temple buried her as one of their own. One day when we were driving to NYU for her daily radiation treatment, my mom talked to me about what her faith meant to her – how deep and abiding it was in her heart and soul, and that she has never felt more at home than in the bosom of her Synagogue’s family of friends, nursery school children, and Sisterhood. As I said to the Rabbi the day of her funeral, she may have been born a Christian but she died a devout Jew. Mazel Tov, Mum!
When my mother was diagnosed with the Glioblastoma, she was entrusted to my care a great deal of the time. It was a blessing. During those hopeful days and nights of surgery and then radiation, I was privileged to come to know my mother as a person – separate and apart from her role as a wife, mother, or daughter – just Liz, pure and simple. And in those 11 short weeks before she passed she taught me unforgettable lessons about humility and gratitude…Mom was likely the gentlest soul I have ever known and not once did she ever complain about her disease; its immediate and shocking recurrence post-op, her circumstances and increasing debility and dependence, all assailing her in rapid-fire succession. Mom looked forward to each day – each meal – each encounter with her children with faith, hope, and love. She believed nearly to the end that she would enjoy another day and so she accepted her disease, planned her future, and embraced every exquisite moment. Thank you Mum for these necessary lessons.
As I’ve written often in the past, my love for food – its creation and consumption – was borne at the tails of my mother’s apron strings. Mom was a natural in the kitchen, having worshipped at the altar of her own mother’s kitchen counter. And my sister, brothers, and my own children have all followed the path these indomitable matriarchs forged in creating fantastic fare.
Mom was a uniquely talented home chef – she excelled both at cooking and baking. I suspect it was due in part to her passion for all things delicious…whether sweet or savory. My mother, affectionately called Lizzie Dean by her brood of six, was baking for her friends and co-workers right up until the day she entered the hospital. At that time she was on deck to provide the Matzo Ball Soup and Chocolate Matzo Cake for the Jewish Center’s upcoming Passover Seder, but sadly she was too busy trying to get well to attend.
Until the end, my mom had an enormous sweet tooth and even when she was too weak to converse she uttered, “Oh, that tastes good” as I gently fed her a “Nilla Wafer”. It was one of the last things she ever said. Go, Mom!
And so at last, we get to the recipe at hand and the inspiration behind its creation.
As a mother-daughter duo, at times Mariel and I like to duel with our dishes – she lightening up some of my saucier, complex recipes while I like to add pinches of flamboyance to some of her simpler samplings. I thought to memorialize my beautiful and talented mom here with a similar duel, and answer one of the childhood staples she served up every single (when we were Catholic) Friday night while I was growing up. (Drum rolls here.) The.ever-popular.1960’s style. Tuna Noodle Casserole, complete with Campbell’s canned mushroom soup for the cream sauce and processed breadcrumbs sprinkled across the top.
My humble offering is basically our Crab Cake recipe, sans the breading, en casserole. It is a snap to prepare – under 30 minutes before it’s ready to bake and the result is just a little slice of heaven as I tip my chef’s hat to my beloved Lizzie Dean, a.k.a. Mom. Go Mets!
Crab Cake Bake
4 eggs, beaten – stock
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard – stock
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce – stock
½ cup chopped scallions, both white and green parts – $0.79
4 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley – $0.99
3 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning – stock
1 small Jalapeno pepper, minced – $0.24
2 Tsp. lemon juice – stock
1cup mayonnaise – stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. lump crab meat, picked over for shell – $25.00
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $27.02
Total Per Serving: $3.38
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil or spray a 9×13 casserole dish.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the first 9 ingredients, whisking well to combine.
3. Using a rubber baking spatula, gently fold in the lump crab meat, being careful not to break it up TOO much.
4. Again, using the same rubber spatula, scrape the mixture into the prepared casserole pan, spreading evenly to the edges.
5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until puffed and beginning to turn golden around the edges.
6. Run under the broiler for a minute or two, until the top is golden. Allow to rest on the counter for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with mango salsa and a remoulade if desired.
Your brudda, Chaz says
I will always cherish what you wrote here Maryanne. Thank you. I’m also gluing to make this recipe!
Your brudda, Chaz says
Deb Pierantozzi says
I am in tears reading this and was often wondering how would I ever survive not having some of your mom’s wonderful treats! She always brought wonderful desserts to our home during the Jewish Holidays. Some of my families favorites were her mint brownies, cheesecake and chocolate cheesecake!! I can’t see through my tear-filled eyes, but she always said how much she enjoyed being with my family during those special days. I am not sure what I will do without her this year and every year to come.
So, many thanks for this beautifully written letter about your Mom – she was one, very special woman and I certainly miss her so much!
Thanks for the recipe and any others you might share. They are greatly appreciated!
Aw, Deb. Thanks so much for your kind words. My mom absolutely adored your mother and relished every holiday she spent with all of you. Many of her recipes are here on our blog, including the Chocolate Mint Brownies, Cheesecake, and Chocolate Cheesecake. You will be amazed to see how easy they are to prepare, so even though my mom is gone, her recipes live on! Her Matzo Ball Soup is also here on the blog so maybe you will whip up a batch next Passover for your own mom to enjoy. Hugs to you! xoxo
Ellen W says
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for the lovely post about your mom and for the great recipe.
Elizabeth and Betsy Preston says
What a beautiful tribute to Aunt Liz — a beautiful lady! Our family is at the beach this week. We ate crab cakes for lunch today in honor of your mom!! Thinking of all of you with love. Love, Liz
Love to you all, Liz, and thank you for enjoying some crab cakes today – Mom would love that!! xoxo
Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe says
What a beautiful tribute to your mom! I’m sorry for your loss – hugs to you and your family.
Haley @ Cheap Recipe Blog says
I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute. It sounds like your mother was an wonderful person.
silver price says
The mourning for a mother never really ends. Even after many years while there may not be active grieving, there are what one child called “mommy-missing feelings.” And what does a mother provide for a daughter: support, advice, a significant person who can help and validate the child during development. No one else is so uniquely important to the child as a mother who helps her to form an image of herself. With this self-image, a daughter is helped to determine how to interact with the world and the people in this world. A daughter’s feelings, thoughts, hopes, desires and attitudes are influenced by a mother. But this mother does not have to be the mother who existed in real life but who is a mother who exists in the daughter’s heart and mind. This is a mother who is carried within a daughter forever.
Serve warm with a slice of piecrust over top of the fruit.
When a coating such as bread crumbs are applied to the meat the flavors and coating will cover a greater amount of the meat’s surface offering more of these flavors per bite. Place 1-2 pieces of chicken at a time in the Ziploc bag containing the crunchy coating mix and shake until the chicken is well coated.
get smart says
sorry to hear this. Anniversaries like this are hard to get through. My mother passed away in July 2003. It’s hard to lose our mothers.