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Classic Fish Cakes

fish cakesFish cakes are usually made with cod, but you can use any flaky, white-fleshed fish, such as haddock or halibut.

The key is to poach the fillets in bay leaf infused water, then flake the cooled meat into a mix of sautéed onions and vegetables.
Celery is a common ingredient, but if you don't care for it, substitute celeriac (celery root; much milder than celery), red-orange-yellow pepper, or bok choy.
Chill the fish cakes in the refrigerator for about a half hour before frying them, so they won't crumble during cooking.
For a golden crust, smear the cakes lightly with mayonnaise before frying.
Serve the cakes with a green salad, slaw, or a bowl of soup or chowder.
Classic Fish Cakes
Adapted from a recipe by Sam Sifton
Time 1 hour, plus chilling
Yields 4 to 6 servings as a main course; 6 to 8 servings as an appetizer
4 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, cut into eighths
1 pound cod fillets, or other white flaky fish such as halibut
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ribs celery, trimmed, peeled and diced*
1 medium-size yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise**
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 eggs
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Vital Choice Organic Salmon Marinade Mix (or Old Bay seasoning, Lawry's Seasoned Salt or 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes)
1 ‘‘sleeve'' unsalted saltine crackers***, crushed, or 1 heaping cup panko bread crumbs
½ bunch parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup neutral oil (such as canola or macadamia nut) or melted butter
*You can substitute celeriac (celery root), red-orange-yellow pepper, or bok choy.)
**Choose one made with flaxseed oil or olive oil, to minimize omega-6 fat intake.
***About 40 crackers
  1. Pour about an inch of water into a large pan with high sides, and set it over high heat. Add the peppercorns, bay leaf and one section of lemon, and allow bring it to a low simmer. Place the fish into this poaching liquid, and cook, still barely simmering, until the flesh has begins to turn white (opaque), about 7 minutes. Carefully remove the fish from the water with a wide spatula, and set aside to cool. 
  2. Empty the pan, and return it to the stove, over medium-high heat. Add the butter, and allow it to melt, swirling it around the pan. When the butter foams, add the celery, onions and garlic, and sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables soften and the onions turn translucent, then transfer them to a large bowl.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, salt, pepper and seasoning salt (or paprika and hot-pepper flakes), then add this mixture to the bowl with the sautéed vegetables, pour the crushed saltines or bread crumbs over them and stir to combine. Add the parsley, and stir again.
  4. Flake the cooked fish into the binding sauce carefully, keeping the flakes as whole as you can manage, but fairly small, then gather them into small balls, and form them into patties, 4-6 for a main course, 6-8 for an appetizer. Place them on a sheet pan or platter, cover loosely with plastic wrap and transfer them to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set.
  5. Set a large sauté pan over high heat, and add to it the neutral oil. When the oil is shimmering, remove the fish cakes from the refrigerator, and carefully sauté the patties until they are golden brown, approximately 4 to 5 minutes a side. Work in batches if necessary. (A small smear of mayonnaise on the exterior of the patties will give them a crisp crust.)
  6. Place on paper towels to soak up excess oil
  7. Serve them alone, or with greens dressed in a lemony vinaigrette, with the remaining wedges of lemon.
Nutritional analysis per serving (4 servings)
417 calories; 26 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 11 grams monounsaturated fat; 5 grams polyunsaturated fat; 20 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 2 grams sugars; 25 grams protein; 161 milligrams cholesterol; 1267 milligrams sodium 
Photo by Grant Cornett for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Theo Vamvounakis.
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