When my family and I lived in Denmark, a favorite outing was to our local harbor, where the fish market sold fish cakes, or "fiskefrikadeller," created from the daily catches hauled in on the fishing boats. When the fish were filleted, all the extra pieces were reserved for fist-sized fish patties sold by the bagful with containers of remoulade, or tartar sauce, meant to be devoured family-style at the picnic tables perched over the sea.
Every harbor with a fish market sold fish cakes, and the recipes were similar, made with white fish, such as plaice or cod, simply spiced and bound together with flour and egg, then pan or, more often, deep fried. Their flavor was mild, thanks to the white fish and simple seasonings, and they were very easy to eat, best washed down with a cold Danish beer (or juice for the kids) in the summer sun.
While nothing could beat fresh fiskefrikadeller at the seashore during the summer, at home I would make my own fish cakes with the goal to create a more healthy and tasty family dinner. I wanted something lighter and brighter, with more fish flavor and less filler.
After many renditions, I arrived at this recipe, which I now use as a template. While I vary the fish at times, depending on what's fresh and available, the amounts remain constant, as does the inclusion of some, if not all, salmon to the mix. I find that salmon's thick, buttery flesh yields a rich and sturdy fish cake. For deeper flavor, I'll often add cold smoked salmon, which adds a salty, smoky (and addictive) edge to the cakes. Fresh herbs, lemon and chopped chiles balance out the richness of the fish, while the binder is kept to a minimum -- just a dollop of Greek yogurt and panko breadcrumbs, which do double-duty as a crisp coating for the patties. The results are fresh, vibrant, and flavorful.
Calling these "fish cakes" really doesn't do the crispy, succulent patties justice. The "fish" part is right, but "cake" infers flour, fat and eggs with a breadlike crumb. These Salmon Fish Cakes have none of that, proving that you that can, indeed, take the cake out of the fish cake.
Salmon Fish Cakes With Lemon-Chile Yogurt Sauce
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour (up to 4 hours)
Total Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes (The fish cakes may be formed up to 4 hours in advance and refrigerated until pan frying.)
Yield: makes about 16 (2-inch) cakes (If desired, more salmon may be substituted for the halibut for a 100 percent salmon fish cake.)
1 pound salmon fillet, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces thick white fish fillet, such as halibut or cod, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 ounces cold smoked salmon fillet, skin and pin bones removed, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, plus 1 1/2 cups for rolling
1 small red jalapeno or Fresno chile pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
1/4 cup coarsely grated yellow onion, with juices
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley and/or cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Canola or grapeseed oil for pan frying
Combine the salmon, white fish and smoked salmon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3 to 4 times to finely chop without over-processing -- the consistency should be slightly chunky and not mushy. Transfer the fish to a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, chile pepper, onion, parsley, yogurt, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl. Using a soup spoon, scoop out a generous amount of the salmon mixture. With a light hand, carefully form the mixture into a plump 2-inch patty. Gently roll the patty in the breadcrumbs to evenly coat and place on platter, lightly pressing the patty to slightly flatten into about a 1/2-inch-thick cake. Repeat with the remaining fish, adding more breadcrumbs to the bowl as needed. Loosely cover the platter with plastic and refrigerate the fish cakes for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
Whisk sauce ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until use.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high until shimmering. In batches, carefully add the fish cakes to the pan without overcrowding. Fry the cakes until golden brown and cooked through, turning once with a spatula, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the cakes to a plate lined with a paper towel and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining fish cakes. Transfer the cakes to a warm serving platter and garnish with the parsley or cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges and the yogurt sauce.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Photo by Lynda Balslev for TasteFood.