Fish Cakes, Two Ways
Sunday October 17, 2010
As promised, "A Wicked Scoff" is back. I have a new logo and many new recipes to share, featuring many Newfoundland and New England classics, some favourites from my childhood, and whatever else I tend to be cooking. Tell your friends and come back often.
Let's start with with some traditional Newfoundland fish cakes. While fish cakes can be made with just about any type of seafood, when you see fish cakes in Newfoundland they will almost always be made from salt cod, a delicacy commonly referred to as bacalao (the Portuguese terminology) in many parts of the world. Besides Newfoundland, salt cod dishes are popular up and down the east coast of New England, especially on southeastern Massachusetts in places such as New Bedford where there is a strong Portuguese presence. Over the next few months I hope to offer a few recipes featuring "bacalao" as there are many delicious ones out there, today I'm starting with a classic that I grew up with.
Salt cod comes in a variety of forms, from whole split fish, to thick cured fillets, to small scraps, and even ready-to-eat canned salt cod. Today I am using the latter, since I have been fortunate to have on hand some canned salt cod from Newfoundland packaged in 14 oz cans by Purity. This product is ready to eat, meaning it does not have to be soaked and drained several times to remove the excess salt and add moisture. For a recipe such as fish cakes where you want small pieces of fish, this product is perfect, and makes for a quick way to get yummy, savory fish cakes on your plate. This recipe makes 5 large (1/2 cup) cakes and 4 small (1/4 cup) cakes. As you will see, I cooked 5 large entree fish cakes for supper and then followed with 4 smaller ones for breakfast the next morning. All were scrumptious!
Traditional Newfoundland Fish Cakes
(Note: all of the prep work for fish cakes can be done ahead of time. You can set the cakes in the refrigerator and cook to order.)
Fish cakes are basically a 50/50 mix of mashed cooked potato and salt cod, with additions of sauteed onion and herbs, floured and fried. The traditional way to fry them is in rendered salt pork and served with the tiny bits of fried pork fat called scrunchins. I did not have any salt pork or fat back on hand so I cooked mine in a combination of vegetable oil and butter. If you have "fat back" by all means go ahead and use it. I also used two methods of breading my fish cakes. For the entree cakes I did a flour - egg wash - seasoned flour battering method, while for the breakfast cakes I did a flour- egg wash - seasoned fine bread crumbs method. I have to say, I preferred the bread crumbs and would recommend doing that as they had a much nicer crust and crunch. Here is how you put it all together.
14 oz can of salt cod, ready to eat
4 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold), boiled and mashed
1 medium onion, diced fine and sauteed in 1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp dried summer savory (rubbed in palm of hand)
1 tbsp fresh minced chives
A few grinds of black pepper.
Combine all of the above ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well. Measure out portions with a measuring cup and shape into round cakes. Coat each cake in flour, dip in an egg wash (1 egg mixed with a little water or milk) and re-dip in fine bread crumbs (seasoned with a little salt and pepper).
In a fry pan, heat 2 tbsp each of canola oil and butter until hot and carefully add fish cakes. Cook on one side until golden brown (3-4 minutes) and carefully turn over and cook on the other side. Remove from pan, season with a little sea salt and serve hot.
I find that fish cakes go great with a condiment that has some acid to it. Back home I loved having mine with a sweet mustard pickle relish, while sometimes ketchup would do the trick. Thinking of a way to start incorporating my Newfoundland Newman's Port into my cooking I whipped up a homemade port ketchup. It was just the thing.
Newman's Port Ketchup
1 (32-oz) can of plum tomatoes with juice
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic
1 (2-oz) shot glass of port
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp kosher salt
In a small sauce pan, saute the onion and garlic in a little oil over a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes. Using a hand immersion blender, blend the concoction until smooth (it will have a little texture). Return to the heat and simmer for another 10-15 minutes to thicken. Place in a bowl and move to the fridge to let cool. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with hot fish cakes. Store remaining in air-tight container in refrigerator for later use.
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About Me...The Wicked Newfoundlander
I'm originally from Newfoundland, Canada, and very proud of it! I moved to upstate New York in 2007, and I spend much of my time working and playing throughout New England. Besides my wife, our dog and hockey, I'm passionate about food. I love to cook and create great tasting food. I also love tasting and critiquing food, and comparing regional cuisine (notably Newfoundland and New England dishes).