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Classic Fish Cakes with Herbed Tartar Sauce

Whilst Donata is powering on with the #Whole30, I’m doing a 5-day semi-fast, so both of us are finding it quite a challenge to write about food at the moment! However, the blog must go on and the family still needs to eat! This is the perfect time to clean out the freezer...🤫 Thanks to my freezer labels, I was able to identify some cod which I had frozen just before the holidays. I don’t love a fillet of fish when it’s been frozen as I find it loses texture, but fish cakes sprung to mind!

If eating defrosted fish or meat freaks you out, listen up. First of all, much of the meat and fish you buy has been previously frozen. Secondly, there’s nothing dangerous about eating defrosted animal protein if it’s done properly, which usually means leaving it in the fridge to thaw overnight.

I used @samsifton’s @nytcooking recipe to guide me, I figured that if it has over 1.5K 5-⭐️ reviews, it’s gotta be a winner. I whipped up a version of my favorite herbed tartar sauce and dinner was on the table. For entertaining purposes, you could make small ones ahead of time and reheat them before serving, adding a blob of sriracha mayo or lemon aïoli to finish. You could also substitute salmon or shrimp for the cod, and add lemongrass to create an Asian version. So many options!

Make sure to rest these in the fridge before frying them, it’ll save you a lot of aggression as they won’t fall apart in the pan. Believe me, I tried to cut corners and it’s not worth it! Please don’t be put off by the list of ingredients, this is truly much quicker and easier than it looks!

Ingredients for 4-6 servings as a main, or 24 appetizer cakes

  • 4 peppercorns

  • 2 slices of onion

  • a few sprigs of parsley

  • 1/2 lemon, sliced

  • 1 pound fish fillets, we used cod

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 medium onion, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard

  • 2 eggs

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning (or 1 teaspoon paprika and 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes)

  • 1 cup bread crumbs

  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

  • oil for frying - use an oil which tolerates high heat such as grapeseed or avocado.

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise for brushing the fish cakes

Fill a large frying pan with 1-inch (2.5cm) of water. Add the peppercorns, onion, parsley and lemon slices, bring to a boil, then simmer. Add the cod and poach it (not letting the liquid boil) for 6-8 minutes until cooked through. Remove the fillets from the poaching liquid and set aside to cool. Flake the fish gently with a fork, keeping some larger bits for texture.

Discard the poaching liquid and return the same pan to a medium heat (less washing up!), add the butter. When the butter has melted, add onion and garlic, sauté until the onion is translucent.

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, dijon, egg, salt, pepper, and Old Bay. Add the breadcrumbs and parsley, then add the fish.

Form small balls with your hands and flatten them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, the longer the better.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat, once hot, add a tablespoon of the oil, swirl the pan to distribute the oil. Brush the fish cakes with a little mayonnaise and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes each side. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary for the next batch.

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt

  • 1 tablespoon of capers

  • 2 spring (green) onions, roughly chopped

  • a small palm full of fresh dill, roughly chopped

  • a small palm full of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

  • zest of one lemon

  • juice of 1/2 lemon

  • salt and pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients to a small food processor and blitz until combined. Season to taste.

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