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Test Kitchen recipe: Bored with fish? Try fish cakes


Today’s recipe is Fish and Shrimp Cakes. You can think of these like crab cakes but made with a mix of cod and shrimp. These use panko breadcrumbs as one of the main binding ingredients and as a coating. They are also pan-fried, which crisps the panko coating, giving it a fried texture.

The original recipe called for lobster, but I opted for shrimp because I had some on hand. Using the shrimp was also easier than having to cook two whole lobsters to yield 1/2 pound of lobster meat.

The recipe is from Ina Garten’s newest book, “Cooking for Jeffrey” (Clarkson Potter, $35). This book, her 10th, was named a finalist for a James Beard Award — Oscars in the culinary scene.

The Jeffrey in the book title is her husband of 48 years. He’s often seen on her Food Network shows. According to the book, the recipes are the ones “Jeffrey and their friends request most often.”

Garten is known for entertaining with ease and great food ideas to go along with it on her Barefoot Contessa show. Her recipes are easy to follow and, well, let’s just say she just makes everything look and sound delicious.

What’s different about these is that you start cooking a mirepoix (that’s the fancy French name for a mix of diced vegetables) of onion, celery and red bell pepper. Once the vegetables are softened, the cod pieces are set on top and heavy cream is poured over all. The fish is then poached in the cream, and that is how it gets a rich and creamy texture.

Depending on the thickness of the cod, it’s simmered about 6 minutes. You want it just cooked — enough so it breaks apart — because it will get cooked again.

Once cooked, the cod and all that creamy-goodness poaching liquid are mixed with the cooked shrimp (or lobster) along with panko bread crumbs and other binding ingredients and seasonings. To shape them, use a large ice cream scoop as a measure and shape into 3-inch cakes. You can also make smaller ones.

This recipe makes about 14 cakes — plenty to serve 6-8 as a main dish on a bed of mixed greens. These are on the looser side and are not a compact cake. (If the mixture doesn’t seem to hold together, chill it at least an hour.) Once you’ve shaped these, you can cover and refrigerate them for several hours before pan frying.

When frying the cakes, use a mix of butter and olive oil. There’s less of a chance of burning butter when it’s mixed with another oil. To top off the cakes, serve them with a remoulade or favorite tartar sauce.

Fish and Shrimp Cakes

Makes: 14 cakes / Preparation time: 20 minutes / Total time: 1 hour

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided

1 1/2 cups 1/4- to 1/2-inch diced yellow onion

1 red bell pepper, 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice

1 cup diced celery

1 1/4 pounds skinless cod fillets, cut into 4 pieces

1/2 cup heavy cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 cups panko bread crumbs, divided

3 tablespoons fresh chopped dill

2 tablespoons good-quality mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, or more if you like

2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 pound cooked lobster or shrimp, 1/2-inch dice

Olive oil

Remoulade sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Place the cod fillet on top of the vegetables and pour in the heavy cream. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 6-12 minutes (depending on the thickness of the cod), until the fish is just cooked. Set a side in the pan for 10 minutes, then flake the fish in large pieces with a fork.

Place 2 cups of the panko breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Add the cod mixture with all the cooking liquid, dill, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon zest, eggs, shrimp, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Mix gently.

Using a large ice cream scoop as measure, shape the mixture into 3-inch cakes. Place the remaining 2 cups of panko on a plate and coat the cakes all over, patting the panko to adhere. Wipe clean the skillet you used to cook the fish. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet until butter is melted. Working in batches, cook the cakes until nicely browned on each side, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the cakes to a sheet pan and keep them warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining cakes, adding butter and oil as needed. Serve hot with remoulade sauce.

To make the remoulade sauce: In a food processor, place 1 1/2 cups of good-quality mayonnaise, 6 tablespoons of roughly chopped cornichons, 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard, 3 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar, 1/2teaspoon of salt and 3/4 teaspoons of pepper. Pulse a few times until the cornichons are finely chopped, not pureed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

From “Cooking for Jeffrey” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, $35).

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.



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