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Monday, September 3, 2012

Fish Cakes

So, the blog has been dormant for the past four (really, has it been four?) months, but it isn't dead yet.  It has been a beautiful summer here on PEI.  It was also a very busy summer with work, weddings, family and friends visiting, beach trips, etc.  Now that September has arrived, it seems like I'll be settling into more of a routine.  Here's a new post to hopefully set the trend for runty mouse as well.

Fish cakes are an Island (and Atlantic Canadian) tradition.  They are a dish I will often order at restaurants (usually at brunch) to determine how much I like the chef.  However, homemade fish cakes are a dish I'm much more familiar with.  My mom makes a lovely fish cake with potato, haddock and egg, pan-fried and crispy, always with delicious homemade mustard pickles or chow.  My Uncle Mike makes a smashing fish cake with bacon as the star ingredient and these are always whipped up at special occasions.  At a recent family party, he brought along fish cake sliders!  Genius!  More to go around.

As much as I love them, I realized that somehow, I had never made them myself.  What?!  It was true.  So one night in the spring I fixed that.  Rather than going by a recipe, I relied on my Island roots and vast tasting experiences and created quite a reasonable fish cake if I do say so myself.

Did I write down my recipe?  No.  Of course not.  Below is my best guesstimate.  There is an ingredient list at the bottom of the post.

PEI Potatoes

Obviously the recipe starts with PEI potatoes!  Starchy white potatoes such as Russets work nicely.  I think Reds (skin on) would also work.  Something like Yukon Gold might be a bit too wet.  For many Atlantic Canadian families, potatoes are boiled nightly for dinner, so the leftovers are used in fish cakes.  We don't eat potatoes very often, so I peeled and boiled up a few pounds (probably 2-3) especially for this recipe.

Salt cod

Taking a page from my time in Newfoundland, I chose salt cod as my fish of choice (about a half pound).  For me it's the ultimate fish cake fish.  You do have to plan ahead a bit, however.  The cod is preserved by a load of salt that needs to be soaked away before it's edible.  So buy the fish perhaps a day ahead, soak it in the fridge in some fresh water, changing as often as necessary until it tastes as fresh as you'd like.  My fish only took two changes of water, about six hours apart.  I then drained it and kept it in the fridge until I was ready to cook.

Parsley and aromatics

Aromatics were up next.  Green and red onion add some nice colour.  These were sauteed in some butter until softened and just starting to brown.

(fish)cake batter

The next step is to simply mix your cooked, mashed potatoes with your salt cod and aromatics.  I added some chopped fresh parsley; Newfoundland fish cakes invariably have dried summer savoury added instead.  Use salt and fresh-cracked pepper to season.  Form into patties just like you would with burgers.

Fish cakes

These keep nicely in the fridge until you're ready to pan-fry them in a little butter, or you can pan-fry them immediately to eat or keep as leftovers (which could then be microwaved).

Making a meal out of ours, we grilled some corn and made a simple green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  Have I told you how we do our corn?  We take fresh corn-on-the-cob, rub it with a bit of butter, add salt and fresh ground pepper, then wrap each ear in tin foil and grill it on the BBQ for 15 minutes or so.

Fish cake supper

Final product!  A simple but delicious meal.

Fish cakes and chow

And don't forget the chow!  Best part of having fish cakes!

Fish Cake Ingredients:

2-3 pounds Russet, white or red potatoes, boiled and mashed
1/2 pound salt cod, soaked and drained
1/2 cup red onion, sauteed
1/2 cup green onion, sauteed
handful of chopped Italian parsley
salt and fresh ground pepper to season
a few tablespoons butter for sauteeing onions and pan-frying cakes
Chow-chow or ketchup to garnish