Cod cakes. Not the sexiest menu item, not necessarily something that calls out, urging for experimentation, but for some reason this recipe and accompanying photo did just that. Sam Sifton, NYTimes Cooking…already my fellow foodies get the gist.
This recipe takes advantage of moist, flaky cod poached in a lightly seasoned pot of simmering water. The fish, so delicate, so fresh (this part is key so I will again emphasize: buy your fish from a trusted fishmonger and if they steer you away from cod that day, another white-fleshed fish will do) shines in these pan-fried cakes. The binding sauce is what really seals the deal and elevates these Cod Cakes above the rest. A combination of sautéed onions, celery and garlic mixed with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Old Bay, a sleeve of Saltines and a generous bunch of parsley–the dipping sauce is fully incorporating into the resulting patty. If this self-confessed condiment addict is telling you that you need nothing more than a squeeze of lemon with these Cod Cakes, take that as fact. They are perfect as is.
One key step in preparing this recipe is chill time in the refrigerator which sets the cakes and helps them stay intact when being sautéed in the pan. The recipe says, “a minimum of 30 minutes” but I actually made the Cod Cakes a day in advance and cooked them without issue the following night. The full day lead time is not necessary but just don’t skip the step entirely.
So go ahead, give the crab cake’s less rich, less glamorous cousin a try. Perfect for dinner, lunch or even Easter brunch. Oh and speaking of which, I’ll be taking a short break for Spring Break. I promise to return with inspiration.
- 4 peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 lemon, cut into eighths
- 1 lb cod fillets, or other white flaky fish
- 2 Tbls 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 Tbls mayonnaise
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp Old Bay seasoning, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or 1 tsp paprika and 1 tsp red-pepper flakes
- 1 ‘‘sleeve’’ unsalted saltine crackers, crushed, or 1 heaping cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ bunch parsley, roughly chopped
- ¼ c neutral oil, like canola
- Fill a shallow, wide pan with high sides with about an inch of water, and set it over high heat.
- Add the peppercorns, bay leaf and 1 section of the lemon to the water, and allow it to come to a bare simmer.
- Place the fish into this poaching liquid, and cook, barely simmering, until the flesh has just begun to whiten all the way through, approximately 6 to 8 minutes (Exact cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your fish. Test before removing it from the cooking liquid; the fish should flake easy with a fork).
- Using a wide spatula, carefully remove the fish from the water, and set aside to cool.
- 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.
- 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.
- Flake the cooked fish into the binding sauce carefully, keeping the flakes as whole as you can manage, then with your hands form into patties, 4-6 for a main course, 6-8 for an appetizer.
- Place the patties on a sheet pan or platter, cover loosely with plastic wrap and transfer them to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes* to set.
- 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 per side. Work in batches if necessary.
- Serve them with the remaining wedges of lemon.
- *I formed the patties and allowed them to chill in the refrigerator overnight.