Fish cakes come in many styles, and I believe I’ve tried most of them. What’s not to love about fresh fish, bread and seasonings pan fried to crispy warm? This recipe is packed with flavor and has all the trappings of a classic comfort food. What’s more, my kids love it.
I made these with haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) because it is locally caught and plentiful, but this recipe will work perfectly with your favorite flaky whitefish. My go-to fish market sells haddock mediums (smaller fillets) for a little more than half the price of the big fillets, which makes this an inexpensive, delicious and healthy family meal.
For the sauce, I prefer a powder made from kung pao peppers out of my garden. But this is not to be confused with a Kung Pao seasoning mix. If you can’t find pure powder of kung pao peppers, cayenne makes a fine replacement. If you don’t like heat, leave it out altogether.
For a lighter meal, add two dressed cakes to a bed of fresh greens tossed simply with oil and vinegar.
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound haddock, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lime juice
In a large high-sided pan, melt your butter on medium-high heat. Add your onion and celery with a pinch of salt and sauté until golden brown. Add the haddock, toss to coat, and then add cream. When it comes to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 5-7 minutes.
While the fish cooks, make your fresh bread crumbs by tearing stale bread into large pieces and placing into the bowl of a food processor. Fill about halfway, and process into fine crumbs. Repeat until you have 3 1/2 cups. Add the bread crumbs to a large bowl, then combine the remaining ingredients and add the mixture to bowl. Add the fish mixture and combine well, then let sit for a few minutes.
Lay out waxed paper and sprinkle on some cornmeal or flour. Form your mixture into about 20 2-inch balls, making them tight enough to hold together well, and place them on the dusted waxed paper.
Sprinkle the tops with more cornmeal. You can cook these immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
When you’re ready to cook and serve, heat your oven to 250 degrees. In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium-high. Add your cakes, being careful not to crowd the pan, and lightly press each one down with a spatula into a patty shape. Flip once, so each side is golden brown.
Put the finished cakes on a heat-proof plate and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve. Finish cooking the rest of your cakes and serve with spicy mayonnaise. (Recipe to follow.)
Kung pao sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon kung pao pepper or cayenne powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
juice of one lemon
juice of one lime
1 teaspoon fresh dill
1 teaspoon fresh chives
Whisk to combine the mayonnaise, pepper and Old Bay. Combine the lemon and lime juice and slowly add to the mayonnaise to taste and preferred thickness. Serve a dollop on top of each fish cake and garnish with fresh herbs.