Living Off The Land (& Sea)
Bermuda Fish Cakes
PREP TIME: 32 minutes
COOK TIME: 20 minutes (for two batches)
If you’ve never dined on a good fish cake, you’re missing out, big time.
Fish cakes are one of my all-time favorite cold-weather comfort foods. They are crispy on the outside, tender in the middle, and bursting with flavor and fishy goodness.
The first fish cakes ever fried were most likely made with dried salt cod. Salt cod once formed a vital commodity for international commerce between the New World and the Old, forming one leg of the so-called triangular trade. Thus, it spread around the Atlantic and became a traditional ingredient not only in European cooking, but also in American, Mediterranean, and Caribbean cuisines.
While many traditional recipes call for salt cod when making fish cakes, you can (and should) make them with fresh fish. I prefer filet mignon to beef jerky, and I also like my fish fresh, not dehydrated. Delicious fish cakes can be made from just about any fish that swims; they are versatile, and can be a good way to use up scraps, leftover fish, or those less-desired specimens that might be lurking in your freezer.
Traditionally, fish, potatoes, and onions are the primary ingredients in fishcakes. However, many variations have developed over time, and there are a number of regional adaptations, all of which are delicious.
Bermuda Fish Cakes
Fish cakes have gained an especially strong foothold on the island of Bermuda, where they’ve been eaten for centuries. It started back in the 1700s, when Bermudan traders would return from New England, laden with salt cod. This new, long-lasting and cheap form of food was primarily eaten by the slaves in Bermuda. Over the years, however, the preparation has evolved and fish cakes are now an island-wide tradition, where they are served served with a mayonnaise sauce that’s been dazzled up with some curry hot sauce and curry powder.
- 1 pound cod fillets
- 1 cup chopped Bermuda onion
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 lime, quartered
- 2 Yukon gold potatoes, coarsely diced
- 2 eggs
- 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons minced thyme
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups dried breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Lemon wedges
Set up a steamer basket in a large pot and add the cod, onion, garlic, lime quarters, and 1 inch of water. Cover and steam until the fish is opaque and flakes into chunks, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a separate pot until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain the fish in a colander, then remove and discard the lime quarters. Drain the potatoes, then return them to the pot on low heat and cook for a few minutes to evaporate any excess liquid.
Smash the potatoes, then mix in the cod, garlic and onions. Do not overmix! Cod fillets are fragile and will turn to mush if you overwork the mixture. You want to see nice chunks of cod in the finished product. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, hot sauce, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper, and flour stirring well to blend. Gently fold the egg mixture into the codfish mixture. Scoop ½-cup servings, forming the mixture into patties, approximately ½-inch thick. Spread the bread crumbs on a plate and press the patties into them, coating both sides. Next, refrigerate the patties for around 15 minutes. This will firm them up, and make them hold together better when frying.
Heat the oil and butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Fry the patties for about 5 minutes per side, or until the crust is golden brown. Dust with a bit of salt and pepper, and serve with lemon wedges and a dipping sauce of your choice.