Thursday, April 28, 2011


After recently admitting to myself that I just don’t like (cooked) salmon very much (although this recipe for it is definitely the best I’ve found), I’ve been getting more and more interested in white fish. Of the (relatively few) varieties I’ve tried, halibut is by far my fave, but lately it’s seemed hard to find and hellishly expensive, so I’ve been substituting cod in my fish and chips or fish tacos, with decent results. Looking for other recipes to expand my horizons in the realm of affordable fish, I stumbled across this enticing-looking one at Serious Eats. Lord knows I love anything in fritter form, and the flavors sounded fresh and springy: chunks of gently poached fish mixed with fluffy potato, green herbs, creamy mayonnaise, and zingy Dijon mustard (my growing obsession). A was a bit put off by the name “fish cake,” but when I explained it as a cousin to the crab cake, rather than some horrific seafood pastry, he was game to give it a shot. And, even though we’re both recovering pescophobes, we really enjoyed them! (Small pieces of fish mixed with a bunch of other ingredients are so much less daunting than a big slab of plain fish.) They were easy to put together (except for baking the potato, it doesn’t take too long), tasty, fun but rather elegant-feeling, and all in all a welcome addition to our limited fish repertoire.

The original recipe called for pollock, but I went with old reliable cod instead, and I threw a little dill in there for added interest. As noted, you could pretty much try these with any fish and herb combo you want (salmon and basil? tilapia and cilantro?). I was also intrigued by the suggestion of trying them in a sandwich, but they were certainly plenty good—and a bit lighter—on their own. The recipe says it feeds four at two petite fish cakes apiece, but that’s as a brunch dish, and for dinner the two of us had no difficulty polishing off four apiece, along with the recommended green salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette, without feeling overfull in the least (that’s just half a potato and 5 ounces of fish per serving, after all). I also whipped up some homemade tartar sauce (mayonnaise + sweet pickle relish + lemon juice), and a dab of it on each fish cake added some welcome moisture and tang.

1 medium russet potato
10 ounces cod
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup chopped parsley, plus a handful of reserved parsley stems
1 tablespoon chopped dill
2 scallions, finely sliced
1 egg
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash potato and pierce all over with a fork. Bake until fully cooked, about 30 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove skin and grate potato through the large holes of a box grater. Place grated potato in a large bowl.

2. Place cod, garlic, and parsley stems in a large frying pan, cover with water, and bring to a simmer until cod is just cooked through, about 6 minutes. Gently flake fish into large chunks and add to bowl with grated potato.

3. To the bowl, add chopped parsley, dill, and scallions. Beat egg with mayonnaise and grainy mustard in a small bowl, then add to fish/potato/herb mixture. Mix until all ingredients are fully combined, being careful to keep fish from falling apart too much. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Divide fish mixture into eight even pieces (about ¼ cup each) and gently press each portion into a ball, then flatten it slightly with your hands. Place panko crumbs in a shallow bowl and press each cake into panko until coated on all sides. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan until shimmering and fry four of the fish cakes until golden brown on both sides, then repeat with remaining oil and fish cakes, keeping finished fish cakes warm in a 250-degree oven if desired. Serve with green salad with a lemon vinaigrette (1 part lemon juice + 1–2 parts olive oil + salt + pepper), and tartar sauce if desired.

Serves: 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side dish or light brunch/lunch
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Low.

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