Growing up, fish was never my favorite food. I think it was because most of my experience with fish revolved around either the fish stick or frozen cod. Sometimes after a summer camping trip with my parents, my mom would bake the trout we caught. I don’t remember eating much of the trout, and instead see myself using my fork to push flakes of fish around the plate until my mom said I could leave the table. My how times have changed.
Since I really started fishing, I have learned I love fish! I love all kinds of fish too: salmon, trout, large and small mouth bass, walleye, striped bass, yellow fin tuna…the list could go on and on. I even find myself ordering fish at restaurants, which is something I used to consider as a waste of a good meal. What has caused this change of heart? Preparing my fresh catches at home. The more I experiment, the more I am becoming a fish addict.
I have blogged about striped bass in the past. The striped bass, which are abundant in Lake Powell, I usually prepare as fish tacos. The sweet and flaky meat of the bass makes for great tacos. So, after a successful weekend fishing trip to Lake Powell that resulted in a dozen beautiful striped bass, I was craving those fish tacos and I was determined to have them.
Once I started cooking, I realized I was limiting myself. Here on my counter lay more fillets than I can eat in one sitting. Why not spice things up a bit and try something new? So, I did: fish cakes.
Fish cakes are basically what you are imagining: little crunchy pancake-sized patties of fish. You know, just like a crab cake, but with fish. So, yeah, a fish cake!
I had not planned on making something other than the fish tacos for dinner, so I made these cakes with supplies from my cupboard and fridge. The recipe is a bit improvised, but I think that is a very convenient thing about something like fish cakes. You can make them to suit your personal tastes all while emptying out leftovers from the fridge. Perfect!
So, let’s get started on this quick and easy fish cake before I start drooling talking on my keyboard about them.
First, throw a sweet potato in the microwave, and don’t forget to pierce it with a fork! I let my potato go for about five minutes, or until it was soft to the touch. I know a sweet potato sounds weird for a fish cake, but it will bring a little substance to the cake so it doesn’t completely fall apart when you go to fry them up.
While the potato is cooking, remove the fish from the skin and cut it into chunks. I used about four fillets, which were all pretty decent sized and came from fish that weighed around 3 to 4 pounds. Place a few chunks of fish at a time into a steam basket. I don’t actually own a steam basket, so filled a large pot with about two inches of water and placed a metal colander inside it. I dropped several chunks of fish in the colander and placed a lid over the top. This worked great! And the fish were thoroughly steamed in about five minutes. You can tell the fish is ready because it will turn this beautiful pearl white color and the pieces will start to look flaky
So, now that the fish and sweet potatoes are cooked, it is time to start building the cakes. Flake the fish into a large bowl. Add the flesh of the sweet potato in there as well. Now, this is where things can get fancy to your own liking. I diced up some red bell pepper because I love the sweetness of the pepper and the pop of color that it adds. I also dropped in minced ginger, which adds a surprising little kick to each bite, and diced celery and green onions. You could get real creative here and add all different kinds of stuff, like bacon, corn, peas, jalapeno, carrots, and the list goes on!
With all the flavors layered in the bowl, it is time to add some glue to help hold it all together. I added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, because I love the tang and slight sweetness of Dijon, but you could also add plain yellow mustard or a spicy mustard. Also, add a tablespoon of mayonnaise or miracle whip. You could even do plain Green yogurt, if that is what you have on hand, as all you are looking for is some type of binding agent. Now, you can mix this all together with a spoon, but I found it easier to just get my hands in there are really incorporate everything together.
It is now time to batter and fry! I set up a battering station, just to help keep things organized. So, in a shallow dish add about a half cup of flour. This will help the egg to bind to the cakes. In the next shallow dish, whip an egg with a splash of water. Finally, in the last dish add a cup of panko crumbs. Panko crumbs are an Asian version of bread crumbs. They are crunchier than traditional Italian style bread crumbs and are a great alternative if you are wanting some extra crunch. In a deep sided pan, add about an inch of oil. You want an oil that can handle a higher temperature so it won’t burn the oil but where you will get a good fry on your cakes. I used canola oil, because it was all I had at home at the time, but the more common oil choice would be vegetable.
Form your fish cakes to a disc about the size of your palm. They will be delicate, so you have to handle them gentle while battering. Dust the cake in flour, dip it in the egg mixture, and finally coat the cake with the panko. Drop the cake immediately in the oil and allow to fry for three to four minutes per side. You can fit about four cakes, depending on the size of your pan, but you don’t want to overcrowd the pan or you oil temperature will drop too much and the cakes won’t get quite as crunchy and golden brown.
For my cakes, I created a tarragon dipping sauce to serve along side. The mixed a tablespoon of fresh minced tarragon, a half cup of Greek yogurt, a half cup of mayonnaise, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The tarragon flavor pairs wonderfully with light, fresh striped bass. These cakes are crunchy, satisfying, and just a bit sweet! So good and easy to whip up any night of the week and a great way to prepare fresh caught fish!