Even though summer is technically over, I’m still keeping the dream alive in my kitchen. And nothing reminds me of the beach like these fish cakes. They may sound classic, but the idea for them originated from something I once made that was far weirder – a concoction, like most strange things that come out of my kitchen, that was a result of not one, but two types of leftovers.
A few summers ago, I decided to mash up some of my mother’s leftover potato salad with a slab of smoked blue fish that was sitting in the fridge. I formed the mixture into little balls and fried them stove-top. They were a little bizarre texture-wise, and not something I would necessarily put into recipe form, as not many people just so happen to have leftover potato salad and smoked bluefish lying around the house at any given moment. But I knew I was onto something, and it took me until this summer to figure out just what.
The result of my leftover-free streamlining was this recipe for gluten-free smoked fish cakes. Simply mash up some cooked potatoes, add the fish, mayo, egg, and herbs, coat with some gluten-free flour, and fry away. I served them on two occasions with fresh corn tartar sauce and some micro greens and they were a huge hit – a great alternative to the usual mini crab cake.
The one issue with these cakes is that without breadcrumbs to bind them, they ended up a little mushy post-fry. You kind of have to carefully pick them up and shove them immediately into your mouth, which is kind of my MO when it comes to finger food anyway, minus the part about carefully picking it up.
Two things to keep in mind to prevent this: make sure to let your mashed potatoes cool completely and/or give the formed cakes a good amount of time in the fridge to firm up. They benefit from being made days in advance, and they are possibly the best thing ever to discover in your fridge as an impromptu breakfast or lunch.
Smoked Fish Cakes with Corn Tartar Sauce
Makes about 30 cakes
Feel free to substitute AP flour if you are not gluten-free!
2 pounds russet potatoes (about 2 large), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pounds smoked fish (trout, bluefish, or mackerel)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
½ cup white rice flour
Corn tartar sauce for serving (recipe follows)
1. Place the potato cubes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over a high flame, then simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes, depending on the size of your pot/pan. Drain the potato and shake out all the water. You want the potato mixture to be pretty dry. Transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork until most of the chunks are broken down. Allow to cool completely – you can stick the bowl in the fridge to speed this up.
2. Meanwhile, using your fingers (I love playing with my food), shred the smoked fish. Remove the skin and any of tough top layer flesh that’s been smoked into a leather-like consistency. You don’t have to be super anal about this, just remember that you want the texture of your fish cakes to be pretty smooth. Also, watch out for pin bones as your sift through and remove those (another reason fingers are your best implement).
3. Add the mustard, mayo, and salt to the potato mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in the fish flakes, egg, and chives until well distributed and everything is clinging together nicely. If you think the batter is too wet, add a tablespoon of flour. It should be thicker than mashed potatoes and much less sticky.
4. Scoop a tablespoon of the potato mixture and roll it between your palms to form a ball. Pat each ball into a flat patty, about ½ inch thick.
5. Cover a dinner plate with the flour. Dredge the patties one at a time in the flour, until they’re coated all over, shaking off any excess. Place the coated cakes on another plate, cover with plastic wrap, and leave them in the fridge for at least 1 hour, and up to 3 days. This will help the mixture firm-up, which is a must without any breadcrumbs in the binding.
6. When you’re ready to eat them, coat a large heavy skillet with vegetable oil (about ¼ inch up the sides) and place over high heat. To test whether the oil is hot enough, fry one of the cakes. It should immediately sizzle when it hits the pat. Arrange the cakes in an even layer, making sure not to crowd the pan and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining cakes and remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool.
7. To serve, top each cake with a dollop of corn tartar sauce and a sprinkle of herbs or micro greens for garnish. Enjoy immediately!
Corn Tartar Sauce
Makes about 1 cup
1 ear of corn, shucked
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
½ cup mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1. Carefully cut the kernels off the ear of corn and reserve in a small mixing bowl.