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Fish Cakes


  • 4 peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lemon, cut into eighths
  • 1 pound cod fillets
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 ribs celery, trimmed, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 heaping tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 sleeve unsalted saltine crackers, crushed
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup canola oil


  • Fill a shallow, wide pan with high sides with an inch of water, set over high heat. Add peppercorns, bay leaf and 1 section of the lemon to the water,bring to simmer. Cook the fish until the flesh has just begun to whiten all the way through, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the fish from the water, set aside to cool.
  • Empty the pan, and return it to the stove, over medium-high heat. Add butter, and allow it to melt, swirling it around the pan. When butter foams, add celery, onions, and garlic, and sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables soften and the onions turn translucent, then transfer them to a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, salt, pepper and paprika and hot-pepper flakes, then add this mixture to the bowl with the sautéed vegetables, pour the crushed saltines over them and stir to combine. Add the parsley, and stir again.
  • Flake the cooked fish into the binding sauce carefully, keeping the flakes as whole as you can manage, then gather them into small balls, and form them into patties, 4-6 for a main course, 6-8 for an appetizer. Place them on a sheet pan or platter, cover loosely with plastic wrap and transfer them to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set.
  • Set a large sauté pan over high heat, and add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, remove the fish cakes from the refrigerator, and carefully sauté the patties until they are golden brown, approximately 4 to 5 minutes a side. Work in batches if necessary. (A small smear of mayonnaise on the exterior of the patties will give them a crisp crust.) Serve them alone, or with greens dressed in a lemony vinaigrette, with the remaining wedges of lemon.