Polpette di Pesce - Fish Cakes
My mother was a firm believer in fish, serving it too often for my taste. That was one reason why I dreaded the season of Lent, a time when every Friday meant some sort of fish would be on my plate when all I really wanted was a hamburger and French fries! And as if that were not enough, Mom also made my siblings and I swallow a tablespoon of fish oil every night after supper, Lent or no Lent. Now, when I look back on those days, I can see that Mom was way ahead of her time if you consider all the prodding we get these days about how good fish and fish oil are for our health. One of Mom’s stand by recipes for Lent was fish cakes, formed like meatballs and then slightly flattened so that they resembled round disks.
Polpette di Pesce
1 1/2 cups soft fresh bread crumbs
3 large eggs
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1-pound fresh monkfish, haddock, flounder or cod fillets, cut into 4-inch pieces
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 small carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1/4 to 1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 to 3 cups vegetable oil, for frying
Fresh basil leaves for garnish
Combine the fresh breadcrumbs, milk, 1 egg, salt, pepper and parsley in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place the fish in a shallow pan with the water, coarse salt, carrot, and onion; simmer until fish easily flakes, about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the type and thickness of the fish.
Carefully lift the fish out of the water with a slotted metal spatula or strainer and place in a bowl to cool to room temperature. Dice the carrot and add it to the breadcrumb mixture. Discard the cooking water and onion. Flake the fish with a fork, then add it to the breadcrumb mixture; add salt and pepper to taste and combine well.
Have ready a plate with the flour, and one with the dry breadcrumbs. In a small bowl, beat the remaining eggs lightly with a fork.
With wet hands, divide the fish mixture evenly into 8 balls. Roll each ball in the flour and shake off the excess. Coat the balls in the beaten egg, then roll them in the bread crumbs, coating them evenly. Place the balls on a plate and press down slightly with your hand to flatten them a little.
In a deep pot or deep-fryer, heat the vegetable oil to 375ºF. Fry the fish cakes in the oil until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Drain on brown paper and serve hot, accompanied by lemon wedges.