My husband hails from New England. Braintree, Massachusetts to be precise. He was born and raised a good Irish Roman Catholic boy. Sadly, both of his parents passed away when he was in his early twenties. He has a small box of photos and a few household things and his memories.
We are now in the season of Lent. My husband is Roman Catholic. I am Byzantine Catholic. My family tradition is to not eat meat quite a few more days than was my husband’s tradition. But not meat on Friday. That’s how we both were raised. That’s what we remember.
In an effort to add to my Lenten meatless repertoire I asked my husband what dishes his mother made to feed her five children on Fridays…not just during Lent, but every Friday.
Fish cakes and beans. The answer was swift and definite.
I used to prepare fish cakes years ago but somehow got out of the habit. While it is a simple dish there are a number of steps to it.
8 oz. (a cup) of cooked fish….like cod, flounder, salmon.
8 oz. (a cup) of cooked white potatoes.
1 tablespoon dried parsley.
2 tablespoons butter.
3 tablespoons cream or milk.
salt to taste.
1. Steam the fish until flaky. About ten minutes once the water boils.
2. Peel, cut, and boil two medium to large white potatoes.
3. Flake the steamed fish in a bowl.
4. Once the potatoes are done so that a sharp knife easily pierces them, but they don’t completely crumble, drain, place in a bowl with butter, dried parsley, and a splash of cream or milk…about 3 tablespoons and smash. Do not make super smooth mashed potatoes. Your cakes simply won’t hold any kind of shape if your potatoes are too smooth and soft.
5. Mix fish with potato mixture.
6. Shape into patties.
7. Dip the patties into breadcrumbs or panko.
8. Melt butter in a frying pan.
9. Place the fish cakes in the hot pan.
10. At this point everything is cooked. Let the patties fry for about 3 or 4 minutes on medium until a crust is formed. Carefully flip over and crisp the other side for another 3 or four minutes. At this point, if dinner has to hold for a short while, the patties can go in a very low (300 degrees F) oven for 15 minutes or so. The patties are soft and, even if they don’t stay in their shape…are completely delicious and a warming comfort food.
My husband likes his fish cakes served with baked beans. He likes a lot of things served with baked beans. Easy to do. Easy to please. I open a can of his favorite brand, squirt in some ketchup and mustard and put them in the oven to bake until they are hot and bubbly (about 30 minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven). I put the beans in the oven first…and then make the fish cakes. But, if you are very pressed for time an open can of beans with ketchup and mustard and a little water heats up just fine in a pot on the stove.
We had this dinner for the first time in a very long time. The cakes were delicious. Crispy. Buttery. A very nice Friday night dinner for two.