Spicy Haddock Fish Cakes

The temperature rose to nearly 60 degrees here today, which is quite unusual for early March in Maine. Then again, it’s been an unusually mild Winter all the way around, with just a few snowfalls timed perfectly to coordinate with the holidays. It certainly wasn’t the Winter of my youth, where the ground froze at the end of October, and there was a permanent layer of three feet of snow that stayed covering the Earth until mid-April. Those were the Maine Winters I remember, where it hurt to breathe, and you would actually curse out loud at Joe Cupo at five in the morning when he would pronounce through a clenched grin that the wind chill factor would make it feel like -25 below. Winters where it hurt to breathe. Where a still-damp pair of freshly-laundered jeans would freeze when you stepped outside in boots that were still frozen from the day before. Winters where people would die just from drinking too much coffee brandy and staying outside for two minutes too long.

Today? If this keeps up, Summer people are going to start thinking they can survive here year-round. Jillian had to restrain me from putting the patio furniture out and going to buy a new grill. It was a brilliant breath of Spring that capped an already mild season. All day, our minds wandered to Springtime projects, to getting the yard cleaned up, to laying in the sun and soaking up some sweet Vitamin D. Just like that, every Spring, and especially today, when all of a sudden there are squirrels again, when the sound of birds returns, you remember what’s to come. Lobster rolls eaten outside on rocky granite coastlines. A cold beer and a battered tin bucket of steamers. A soft serve cone from the 50 year old Dairy Queen that once served LBJ.

We may have jumped the gun a little bit. Already it’s cooling off again this evening, and there’s still a decent layer of melting snow on the patio. It may not be time to pack away our down Winter coats just yet. But if you’re ready to start shaking off Winter, ready to remember what Summertime tastes like, make these fish cakes. We used haddock, but any flaky white fish will do. Stretch them with a little mashed potato, spice them with a little Sriracha, open all the doors and windows, crank up the thermostat to 80 degrees in one last shaken-fist of defiance at the Dead River Heating Oil Company, take your shirt off, crack a Geary’s Summer Ale, and be patient. Spring is back. Just you wait.

Spicy Haddock Fish Cakes
Makes 8 fish cakes; Inspired by a recipe on The Bite House

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound of haddock (about 2 fillets)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha or other hot sauce
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Method:

1. In a large pot over medium heat, cover potatoes with water and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Mash with the butter and garlic, and set aside to cool.

2. While potatoes are cooking, preheat oven to 350. In an oven safe pan, combine fish fillets, white wine, a drizzle of oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Remove fish from pan and liquid, and allow to cool slightly.

3. In a large bowl, combine mashed potato mixture, fish fillets, green onions, parsley, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, Sriracha, and salt and pepper. Taste mixture to test for seasoning, and then shape mixture into 8 fish cakes, about two inches across and an inch thick.

4. In a nonstick skillet over high temperature, heat vegetable oil until nearly smoking. Working a few at a time, sear fish cakes on each side, about 3-4 minutes per side. Use care when flipping; fish cakes are delicate. Move swiftly and decisively with your spatula, keeping the flipping to a minimum. Serve with more fresh lemon, and tartar sauce.

Our “Classics” series tackles some of our favorite dishes from Maine’s rich culinary tradition. You can think of them as “traditional” dishes, or more accurately, things you might have had for hot lunch in the fourth grade, had you attended St. George Elementary. To read more from this series, click here.

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as the junk food blog "Spork & Barrel," and "Brocavore," a blog about food trucks and street food culture. His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, Eat Rockland, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.

7 Comments

  1. Even in the short 16 years I’ve been in Maine, I’ve noticed a clear warming trend.

    And now the maximum phase of the sun’s 11-year cycle is expected to peak in 2013.

    Better buy an air conditioner and look for recipes which require minimum or no heat to prepare.

    View Comment
  2. We’re in a completely different weather system up here in northern Maine, we’ve had the constant three feet of snow that you mention. Although it was 60 up here yesterday, too, pretty wild.

    I can’t picture 3 feet of snow hanging in Portland for longer than a few days! Then again, I am from away.

    View Comment
  3. I have just returned from the store with some frozen haddock filets (unfrozen in Central NY means unfresh) I don’t have any potatoes, so I may put this on hold for tonight – it sounds like a wonderful recipe.

    View Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.