Classic Cod Cakes
I couldn’t help it, I had to go with the alliteration (I nearly called them Classic Connecticut Cod Cakes, just to get another C in there! I mean, it is a New England recipe, and Connecticut is in New England…)
Well, all right. It really is classic, the cakes really are most frequently made with cod (though any firm fish will work,) and this is the simplest, most stripped down version. Basically, cod and potato, and a little parsley. (Oh, no – are we going to have Perfect Potato and Parsley Classic Cod Cakes? Stop me, someone!)
Well, I wrote about the reasons I use (Pacific, frozen) cod – I can get it easily, it’s cheap, it’s good. These are the reasons New Englanders ate vast amounts of Grand Banks cod for years – plus the fact that salt cod was even more readily available and cheaper – one of the few foods that really could be preserved well. This recipe and others could be made with either fresh fish or soaked salt fish, and it’s good either way. The salt fish I find now in the market is mostly Alaskan Pollack (sold as Bacalao, for the Hispanic market) and if you have it, you can substitute it. Just soak it in cold water for at least twenty four hours, changing the water a few times, then proceed as written.
This is the simplest, most stripped down form of cod cakes, and they are pretty soft… (Why yes, a piece broke off while I was taking pictures. I ate it – I’m no fool…) I have seen recipes that call for dredging the cod cakes in corn meal before frying, and I saw one that had you beat an egg and flour into the potato mixture to give it more body, but I just like this. Very pure, very simple.
Basically, your ratio is twice as much potato, by weight, as fish. You cook and flake the fish, and stir it into mashed potatoes, with whatever seasoning you want, then form into cakes and fry. Straightforward.
I start with the fish – cover it with water, and cook over low heat. You don’t want the water to ever actually boil, because you don’t want to toughen the fish – but bring it to a low simmer and cook about five minutes until it flakes. This will depend a lot on the size of the pieces – if you have one big filet it may take as long as ten minutes, but I have lots of small pieces (which is one of the reasons this recipe makes so much sense for me…) Then use a slotted spoon to remove the fish to a bowl and let it cool, while you cook the potatoes in the fish stock. (There being no point in draining away the flavor and nutrition in that water!)
I don’t peel potatoes for mashing. This time, I had russets – they mash beautifully, but there is nothing subtle about the peels. We don’t find them annoying at all, but you do notice them – so your choice of potato may depend on who will eat this. But anyhow – I cut the pieces small because the peel is less obtrusive and because it cooks faster… Cut the potatoes, cook them until tender (another five minutes or so,) do drain most but not all of the liquid now, and mash the potatoes – I just use reserved cooking liquid, in this dish, instead of adding milk.
Once the potatoes are cooked season them – minced parsley, and a pinch of salt. (Skip the salt if you used salt fish, of course!) I used pureed parsley from my freezer… one reason there is a slight green cast to the potatoes… If you want, you can add other seasoning at this point. Rich complained that they were a bit bland, but honestly, it traditionally is a fairly bland dish – then you serve it with tartar sauce or anything else you want to perk it up, so everyone can season their own. (And so this might go over well with kids who are used to fish only in the form of fish sticks…)
Now, while the potatoes cool a little, turn your attention back to the fish, which has itself cooled by now, enough to handle. Flake it, break it into small pieces. It is really best to do this with your hands, both because you can control it, and because that’s a chance to check for any fishbones that may still be there. They can be sneaky little things… Once the fish is flaked, mix it into the potato mixture, and stir until fully mixed.
Heat a fry pan, and heat oil in it. Now, like the fritters, latkes and others, this is not just the tiny amount so it won’t stick – you need enough oil to pan fry – maybe an eight of an inch? (You can certainly make balls and deep fry if you’re comfortable with that – it’s delicious, but too much fuss for me.) Get the oil hot enough to brown, form patties, and place them carefully in the pan. I made large patties, sort of burger size, but they take longer to fry and stay softer than smaller ones – if you make smaller ones, you get more browned bits, and they make fun appetizers.
Keep an eye on them, turn them once they are browned – in this recipe, everything is already cooked, so you don’t have to worry about that, this is just to get the delicious crisp outside. Once they are brown, flip them and cook the other side, then remove to a paper towel and drain them while you cook the rest. I get about a dozen burger sized patties from a pound of fish – more little ones, of course.
And there you are. Serve with tartar sauce (don’t open the fridge after they are in the pan and realize you are out of mayonnaise, the way I did… make it ahead of time, to let the flavor meld, the way you are supposed to!) Or use hot sauce – not traditional but I expect they’d be good with the ubiquitous sriracha… And enjoy them!
Yields dozen cakes
Make these classic cod cakes - a simple, delicious traditional New England treat!
30 minCook Time
30 minTotal Time
5 based on 1 review(s)
- 1 lb. cod (or other firm fish)
- 2 lbs. potatoes
- 1/4 c minced parsley
- 1/2 t salt
- oil for pan frying
- Just cover the fish in cold water, and bring to a low simmer. Cook 5-10 minutes, until fish flakes easily. Remove from liquid with a slotted spoon, reserving stock, and place in bowl to cool.
- Scrub potatoes, and cut in roughly 1-2" pieces. Boil in reserved liquid from cooking fish until tender. Drain and mash. Stir in parsley and salt.
- Flake fish into small pieces (checking for any bones that may have been missed in the filleting process. Stir fish into mashed and seasoned potatoes. Form into cakes.
- Heat oil in pan. Add fishcakes to pan, and cook until brown on one side, then flip, and brown the other side. Repeat with remaining fishcakes.
Serve with tartar sauce, to be traditional, or other condiments of choice.