You can use any smoked fish here, they are all delightful.
Pan- or oven-fried cakes of any sort are an economical way to stretch a pound of smoked fish, which can be on the pricy side these days. When I was growing up, smoked and salted fish of any type was cheap food to feed a large family, but prices have escalated in recent years, the humble rising to the top.
Let’s feed a crowd on a shoestring
Often the cakes my mom made were made from Finnan Haddie, a smoked haddock, and mashed potatoes, and we all loved them. A batch would feed all seven of us, with some for my dad’s lunch pail the next day. Made with dressed up simple ingredients, the proportions varied with what was available; sometimes there would be less haddock and more potatoes, and vice versa. She might put a poached egg on top, or make a quick sauce with mayonnaise and dill relish.
Just a twist or two
I’ve updated mom’s recipe a bit, but the flavor remains basically the same. Since I was serving these to company, I dressed up a white sauce made from the poaching milk, but ordinarily I’d make a quick mayonnaise and sriracha topping. Use whole grain bread rather than white, a plant milk replaces the canned evaporated milk, and I added the anise. This is equally delicious with smoked trout or mackerel, which are both easier to find even in a regular grocery store.
Smoked Haddock Cakes
4 slices whole grain bread, or panko bread crumbs
1 lb. smoked haddock, smoked trout, or mackerel
3 cups milk, or plant milk
2 bay leaves
2 stars anise
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek, minced, divided
1 large rib of celery, minced
½ sweet red pepper, minced
½ tsp. Old Bay seasoning
½ tsp. sweet paprika
1/3 cup dry sherry
2 cups mashed potatoes
½ cup Hellman’s regular or vegan mayonnaise
Process the bread in a food processor until crumbs, but not too fine, Set aside. You can also just use panko bread crumbs.
Rinse the haddock well and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, bay leaves, anise, and the darker third of the leek. Bring to a simmer for ten minutes
Add the haddock to the simmering milk, cover and gently let poach for 10 minutes. Set the timer. Remove the haddock, strain the milk reserving one cup for the sauce. You can save the rest of the infused milk for a soup or stew.
While the haddock is poaching, heat a large skillet with the olive oil over medium high heat and add the rest of the leeks, the red pepper, celery, old bay, and paprika. Continue cooking until translucent, but with no browning. Add the sherry, and let completely evaporate.
Flake the haddock into a large bowl, and add the vegetables. Mix well, then add the potatoes and mayonnaise. Mix to combine.
Fill an ice-cream scoop, pick up a handful of the breadcrumbs, place in your flattened palm, and release the fish mixture onto your bread-crumbed hand. Sprinkle more breadcrumbs on top, and fashion into a patty, pressing the crumbs in gently. You should be able to make a dozen cakes.
Place them on a well-oiled baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for at least a half hour, longer is better. This will keep the cakes firm.
When ready to make, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Spray the tops of the cakes with more oil, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until brown. All you are doing is warming through and browning since everything inside is already cooked.
Once done, plate, and serve with the following sauce:
Sun-dried Tomato and Parsley Cream Sauce
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup reserved infused milk from above, warm
3 or 4 sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for a minute, then slowly whisk in the milk. It should thicken almost immediately. Once nice and creamy, add the tomatoes, parsley, and lots of ground pepper.