Noah’s Cod Cakes and Tartar Sauce
My younger son, Noah, has always been a fish fan. At one point, I thought I had a pescatarian (someone who eats fish but not meat) on my hands. Thankfully, I don’t–I say that only because my other son is a huge carnivore and will not eat fish. Fortunately, Noah eats almost everything, but he loves fish the most. By “fish” I mean almost anything from the sea, from salmon to soft-shell crabs. He is willing to try almost anything, except octopus–he likes those way too much to eat them.
I developed this recipe at my first job right out of culinary school as an alternative to crab cakes. The recipe was so well-received by the club members that it actually went on to become a signature dish. What came with that glory was the honor of making lots and lots of cod cakes, daily. I made so many cod cakes during my time there that, personally, I rarely enjoy them anymore. They are, however, a big hit when I make them.
I made these for Noah when he was very little, and I have not stopped since. He asks for these more than smoked salmon from Zabar’s and ribs from Carson’s in Chicago. The recipe is easy and you can substitute other fish if you wish, or if cod is unavailable–I’ve been known to use frozen fish. What works best is a flaky, non-oily mild fish. You can also add crab to it if you desire. The recipe also holds up if made in advance, which works great for dinner parties. The cakes can be served as an hors d’oeuvre, an appetizer, or an entree. Noah will also join me in the kitchen to make these: he’s happy to roll up his sleeves and dig right in to mix and form the cakes. Now that he’s older, he can probably make them all by himself. I may just need to test that out…
Cod Cakes and Tartar Sauce
For the Cod Cakes:
- 1 1/2 pounds cod fish (boneless and skinless)
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (plus an additional 3/4 cup for coating)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 limes, juiced;1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil, for cooking
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
For the Tarter Sauce:
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons red onion, finely chopped
- 4 cornichons, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- For the Cod Cakes, place about 10 cups of water in a stockpot over high heat and bring to a boil. When boiling, add fish and lightly simmer for 2-3 minutes until the cod is cooked. Drain and cool in a colander. Set aside.
- When the cod is cool enough to handle, place it in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Gently flake with a fork (or your hands) looking for any possible bones.
- Add 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, mayonnaise, lime juice, and parsley, and mix well with a rubber tip spatula. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Once the seasoning has been adjusted, add the egg.
- Make into 8 (or 10, depending on the desired size) equal, well-formed patties and set aside.
- Add an additional 3/4 cup bread crumbs to a separate mixing bowl. Gently coat the cod cakes in the bread crumbs, making sure to get the sides, and place on a plate. Repeat with the remaining cakes. Note: once coated in bread crumbs, cod cakes can be wrapped well and refrigerated for 1 day or until you are ready to cook them.
- For the Tartar Sauce, mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until blended. Cover and refrigerate till needed.
- To Cook the Cod Cakes, working in batches, heat about 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large shallow sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking (butter will be bubbling), add the cakes and sauté for 4-5 minutes per side, or until golden in color. Carefully turn the cakes over and cook on the other side. When the cakes are cooked through, remove them from the pan and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Add the additional oil and butter and repeat with the remaining cakes. Note: the cod cakes can be re-heated in the oven should the need arise.
- Serve cod cakes hot with a dollop of tartar sauce