For those who observe Lent, it can be easy to fall into a rut of what to fix when going meatless on Fridays. While many cooks will look for vegetarian alternatives (always a good thing), there are plenty of others for whom coming up with different takes on preparing fish isn't always easy.
The good news is that feeding the family during Lent doesn't have to be a struggle to get everyone to eat seafood. Salmon and crab cakes are favorites, but the kids will enjoy fish and salmon sticks, as well as fish tacos, too. Yes, we grown-ups know it's all basically the same product, but the presentation can make a difference. Let a child use his fingers to eat dinner and you've usually got a winner.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 pounds cooked salmon, skin, bones and gray strip of flesh discarded
1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
Mild oil, such as canola, for crisping
1. Mix: In a large bowl mix mayo, dill, onion, zest, salt and pepper. Add salmon. Mix gently with a soft spatula.
2. Shape: Pat into 8 cakes, each about 3 inches across and 1 inch thick. Roll cakes in bread crumbs. Set cakes on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Chilling is optional, but makes the cakes easier to handle.
3. Crisp: Heat a thin film of oil in a heavy cast iron pan set over medium heat. Cook salmon cakes in batches until crisp outside and hot inside, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Makes 8 cakes.
Leah Eskin, Chicago Tribune
Crabmeat is sold "fresh," pasteurized, frozen or canned. Meat labeled fresh has actually been lightly boiled or steamed to release it from the shell. It's expensive and most easily found online (crabplace.com is one good source). Pasteurized crabmeat goes though an additional process to extend its shelf life. Look for it in vacuum-sealed cans or plastic tubs near the seafood case of your supermarket.
Pasteurized blue crab was used in these crab cakes; once mixed, you can't tell it from fresh. It's graded and sold according to the size of the pieces or "lumps.'" Jumbo lump backfin is the most expensive, with large pieces and few shells to pick through. Moderately priced backfin is shredded-looking and can contain shells and cartilage. Claw meat is the least expensive, with a dark color and shredded texture.
Tips for making seafood cakes
To keep the fish or crab from breaking apart, blend wet ingredients with the dried seasonings first. Then add seafood and the crumbs.
Chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes before forming into cakes; this gives it time to coalesce and helps the cakes hold together.
An ice cream scoop or 1/2-cup measure is a handy tool for forming the cakes.
Make sure the oil is hot before you add the cakes. Test it by dropping in a bread crumb; if it immediately sizzles and browns, the pan is ready.
Take care not to crowd the pan or the cakes will steam rather than brown. Fry them in batches if necessary.
After browning on the first side, finish the cakes in the oven so they won't get too brown before they are cooked through.
After browning, you can hold the cakes, covered and refrigerated, for several hours before the final baking. (Add 3 or 4 minutes to the oven time.)
Serving suggestions: Serve as a first course on baby greens drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or as a main course with roasted potatoes and creamy cole slaw.
OCEAN REEF CLUB CRAB CAKES
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup mayonnaise
Scant 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 pinch cayenne
1 pinch freshly ground white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
3 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs), divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
Mustard sauce (see note)
Whisk egg, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce together in a large bowl. Whisk in dry mustard, Old Bay seasoning, cayenne, white pepper and parsley. Gently fold in crabmeat using your hands or a wooden spoon. Add 1 cup of the bread crumbs; toss gently until mixture holds together. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Divide crab mixture into 6 portions and form into cakes about 3 inches in diameter. Pour remaining crumbs onto a sheet of wax paper and dip crab cakes in them to coat.
Heat oil over medium-high in an oven-proof, nonstick pan. Working in batches if necessary, saute the crab cakes until golden brown on first side, about 3 minutes. Turn cakes and transfer pan to oven; bake about 6 minutes, until golden and cooked through. (Or transfer cakes, browned side up, to a foil-lined baking sheet.) Garnish with lemon; serve with mustard sauce.
Makes 6 servings, each with 798 calories, 60 grams fat, 132 mg cholesterol, 23 grams protein, 42 grams carbohydrates, 2.5 grams fiber, 1,077 mg sodium.
Note: For mustard sauce, mix 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Refrigerate. Makes 6 servings.
Miami Herald, Executive chef Philippe Reynaud, Ocean Reef Club, Key Largo, Fla.
Fish Cakes with Mango Sour
2 pounds white flaky fish, seasoned as desired
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice
1-2 scallions, chopped finely
freshly chopped herbs (optional)
desired amount of hot pepper, chopped finely
2 tablespoons onion-garlic puree or desired amount of onion/garlic, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes
1 egg plus 1 teaspoon water (optional)
1 cup bread crumbs
Oil for frying
Mango Sauce (recipe below)
1. Wash fish and pat dry with paper towels. Place fish on a baking sheet and season as desired-I sprinkled black pepper, salt, Cajun seasoning.
2. Bake fish at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through.
3. Place fish in bowl, flake, and add dry seasonings- mix thoroughly. Add chopped scallions, pepper, onions, garlic (or onion-garlic puree)- mix and set aside.
4. Peel and chop potatoes. Boil until potatoes are cooked, but not falling apart. Mash immediately after draining.
5. Add enough mashed potato, a little at a time to form a ball. Taste mixture and adjust seasoning to suit. Shape into small discs.
6. If using eggs: Beat together one egg and 1 teaspoon water. Add fish cake to egg mixture, coat on both sides then immediately place in bowl with bread crumbs. Coat on both sides. Heat enough oil in a shallow frying pan on medium heat and fry until golden brown on both sides.
7. If not using eggs: After shaping into discs, press firmly into bread crumb coating on both sides, and fry immediately in a shallow pan until golden brown.
8. Top with mango sour and enjoy. Makes about 10 pieces.
Notes: Eggless fish cake will be slightly soft while frying, so be careful when turning them in the frying pan. Once cooled, they will become stiffer.
Keep heat on medium when frying; the bread crumbs can burn quickly. Peanut oil is a good option to use for frying as it can withstand high temperatures for a long time without burning. If you don't have any on hand, vegetable oil or canola oil will work fine.
2 cups green unripened mango, chopped (about 1 mango)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 scotch bonnet peppers (or desired amount of pepper sauce)
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
2 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons vinegar (optional)
1. Peel and chop mango in 2-3 inch pieces. Discard the seed. Chop garlic, set aside.
2. Combine all ingredients (except vinegar, if adding), in a small pot and bring to a rapid boil for 10-15 minutes.
3. Reduce heat and simmer until mango is soft and cooked through. Mash mango until desired consistency is reached.
4. Adjust pepper and salt to suite.
5. If adding vinegar, allow mixture to cool slightly then stir in.
6. Sour will thicken up once it is cooled. Makes 2 cups.
Here are a few other ideas for fish tacos:
If you don't want to batter and fry the fish, bake it. Brush with a little oil, season as desired and bake in a 400-degree oven. Bake 10 minutes for every 1 inch of thickness.
Consider using shrimp in place of fish. Bake or saute shrimp until they're opaque. Serve with the same cilantro tartar sauce.
Try different sauces. Top the tacos with sour cream mixed with lime zest, cilantro and lime juice. Make an avocado sauce by pureeing ripe avocado with lime juice and sour cream until it's the consistency of a sauce. Drizzle over the fish.
Make pico de gallo. Mix chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, a bit of olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt, pepper and a few pinches of sugar to taste. This goes well with any baked fish.
FISH TACOS WITH CILANTRO TARTAR SAUCE
Any firm fish, such as tilapia
1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons capers, plus a little caper juice
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (with seeds, if desired)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds cod fillets
1 cup favorite fish-fry mix
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup oil for frying
12 6-inch flour tortillas
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 avocado, halved, pitted, diced
To make the tartar: In a small bowl, combine all the tartar ingredients. Set aside. You can make this one day in advance.
To make the fish: Rinse and pat dry the cod fillets well. Cut fillets into 2- by 1-inch pieces. Set aside.
Mix the fry mix with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water. The batter should be very thin, like pancake batter. On a shallow dish or pie plate, mix the flour, cayenne pepper, chili powder and salt and black pepper.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
When ready to fry, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. The oil should cover the bottom and come up at least 1/4- inch in the skillet.
Working in batches, dredge several pieces of fish in the flour mixture and then dip in the batter, allowing the excess batter to drip off.
Place in the hot oil and fry on all sides until browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep the fish hot. Repeat with remaining fish.
Microwave the flour tortillas to warm.
To assemble, place some cabbage on each tortilla. Top with 2 to 3 pieces of fish and a dollop of tartar. Garnish with green onions and diced avocado.
Makes: 12 tacos, each with tartar sauce, 290 calories, 15 grams fat, 27 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 644 mg sodium, 29 mg cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.
Detroit Free Press
No-Fry Fish Sticks
1 pound skinless tilapia fillets (about 2)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt and black pepper
Ketchup or tartar sauce, for serving (optional)
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the fish into 3-by-1-inch-thick sticks (about 24). In a shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs, oil, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
2. Coat the fish sticks in the bread crumb mixture, pressing gently to help it adhere, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and opaque throughout, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with ketchup or tartar sauce, if desired. Serves 4.
To freeze: Place the coated (unbaked) fish sticks on a baking sheet and freeze until firm. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. To cook, bake the frozen fish sticks on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 400 degrees until crisp and opaque throughout, 15 to 18 minutes.
Note: Uncooked coated fish sticks can be refrigerated for up to 1 day and frozen up to 3 months. So u can make well ahead of time.
Do the dipping and dredging really fast as the fish will not crisp up if it absorbs too much moisture.
Panko is larger bread crumbs and it gives a crispier effect. I have replaced half of the bread crumbs with panko.
Crispy baked salmon sticks
1 1/2 pounds wild salmon, cut into strips
1/3 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dill
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dill
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease a baking sheet.
2. On a small plate, combine the flour with the salt and pepper. On another plate, combine both bread crumbs, cheese and dill.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk.
5. First, coat the salmon strip in the flour mixture, then dip in the egg mixture until fully coated, next roll in the bread crumb mixture and press down gently so that all sides of the strip are coated and place on the baking sheet.
6. Repeat with all the remaining salmon strips.
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, flipping half way through.
8. While the salmon bakes, mix together all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl.
9. Serve the fish sticks immediately with lemon on the side.