When you catch large fish and slice them into filets, what do you do with all the extra meat that remains on the bone and cartilage? At our favorite fishing lake, Lake Almanor in Northern California, we often catch trout in the 3-5 pound range, which are big enough for carving off a nice fillet from each side. My good friend and fishing partner Greg, who’s cooking I would match up against any trained chef, came up with a great solution to the challenge of not wasting good fish. His fish cake recipe utilizes the entire fish and is an option for those who possess intermediate culinary skills or just want to add nice variety to thier fish cooking.
Depending upon how much meat is left on the fish and how many you catch, whats left on the cartilage usually can add up to a good pound and most times more. The technique is to use a spoon and scrape the bone in the same direction from the lateral line down to the bottom of the fish. This will easily and quickly remove the excess meat that remains after filleting the fish. Be sure to remove any excess skin or bone that happens to becomes unattached while scraping. As you can see in the picture below, what you end up with is a large pile of clean trout meat.
Another tip to enhance your eating pleasure is to remove all the pin bones that are left on any of the the filets, weather cooking separately or if needing to add them into the scraped meat to make more fish cakes. To do this, you must feel the bone as you run your finger along the lateral line of the inside section of the fish. To remove these fine bones you must use pinchers, small pliers or a hemostat and grasp the bone with the tool and pull upward as seen in the pictures below.
The total of scraped meat, along with any additional fillets needed, is minced into 1/8 to 1/4 inch sized pieces to yield about 3 lbs which should make total of 8 -10 cakes. This should look like coarse hamburger. See the image below.
Complete Ingredients and Directions:
The ingredients and are as follows:
Garlic cloves – minced 2 to 3
Green onions – Chopped 6
Red pepper – Chopped in 1/4 inch pieces – 3-4 tablespoons
Again all these ingredients should be uniform pieces 1/8 to 1/4 inch
See picture below
Mayonnaise 1/2 cup
Dijon mustard 1 heaping tablespoon
Parsley chopped 1/2 to 3/4 cup
Lemon juice from 1 lemon and you may add the zest of that lemon (optional)
Your favorite red pepper sauce – I use crystal 1/2 teaspoon
Bread crumbs – about a cup more or less to bind the mixture
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
You may also add fresh herb such as tarragon or thyme to taste (optional)
Saute onion and red pepper in extra Virgin olive oil and butter (unsalted) 1 tablespoon of each for 3-5 minutes then add minced garlic and continue to saute for 3 more minutes. Set aside and let cool.
In a large bowl, add to the fish the above cooked vegetables, parsley, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, lemon juice, red pepper sauce, herbs (optional), eggs and mix in a folding manner to incorporate everything together. See picture below.
The bread crumbs are used for two reasons. First is to bind together the mixture. Be sure to add enough to hold the mixture together so that a ball can be formed about the size of a tennis ball. Do this for all the mixture making sure that all balls are equal size by taking some from larger balls to make smaller ones the same size. The second reason is that the remaining bread crumbs are placed onto a plate then taking the balls and pressing them gently into the crumbs forming 4-5 inch diameter cakes at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick. Form the substance together into a patty so that cake holds together and then turn over and coat opposite side in the same fashion. To assure flakey fishcakes once they are cooked, do not add too much bread crumbs which will will make the substance too gummy. Add just enough to bind the cakes together. See the two pictures below.
Take the prepared cakes and place onto plastic wrap or parchment paper to keep separate, or they can also be stacked without cakes sticking together. Placed formed cakes into refrigerator until ready to use or put into a frying pan and sauté the cakes in the same extra virgin olive oil and butter combination until cakes are golden brown on one side. Then flip over. This should take only 3-4 minutes per side depending upon the temperature of your pan. Try not to over cook.
Meanwhile, for the sauce to serve on top, prepare 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 -3 tablespoon of red pepper sauce, salt and pepper to taste and chopped parsley (about a tablespoon) and mix all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
If more spice is your taste you may add jalapeno, Serrano, or Habenero cored and minced, and add to the sauce. Place in refrigerator until ready for use.
Turn cakes onto plate and top with prepared sauce, dust with chopped parsley and serve immediately. See the final picture below
For those who enjoy preparing food and getting great flavor from adding fresh garden ingredients to dishes, these fish cakes are worth the small investment in effort. Please contact us with questions or what you think of this recipe at Mike@norcalfishinglounge.com or leave a comment below.