"Grinding" is a misnomer when it refers to preparing fish for fish cakes. As a comparison, salmon mousse, fish balls and gefilte fish consist of ground fish. Fish cakes, on the other hand, bind chunks of fish and require a deft hand during preparation. Fish cakes should have a coarse internal texture, without the mouthfeel of a product liquified in a food processor. As with most rustic foods, for best results, prepare fish cakes simply, manually and thoughtfully.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat the fish fillets with just enough olive oil to glisten the surface.
Lay the fillets in a shallow dish. Bake them until they reach 145 F, about 12 to 15 minutes. The flesh turns opaque and feels firm when ready.
Transfer the fillets to a plate and let them rest until they cool enough to handle. Pull out the pin bones and peel away skin, if present. Place the fillets in a mixing bowl.
Crumble the flesh of the fillets into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks using your fingers. Use a light touch; you want to separate, not mash. Discard any remaining bones or cartilage you encounter.
Add the starch and binder to the mixing bowl along with the seasonings. Gently turn the fish, starch and binder together until just mixed.
Form and shape the mixture into cakes. Chill the fish cakes in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before cooking.
You may think that 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks of fish is a large size for fish cakes, but it isn't; the fish breaks down during mixing.
Although inexpensive, mild white fish, such as cod, pollack and tilapia, is often used in fish cakes, but you can use any variety you fancy.
- The Professional Chef 9th ed.; The Culinary Institute of America
- BBC Good Food: Family Meals: Easy Fish Cakes
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.