Americans tend to reject fish with more bones than they think are appropriate. I chalk it up to sheer sloth and laziness, because many of these fish are fantastic to eat, once you deal with the bones. Shad is a prime example, as is Northern pike. Thankfully, both fish do have their enthusiasts, and I am among them.
Pike, especially, is a wonderful fish. Very firm, very white, as mild to eat as the fish is fun to catch. I had the opportunity to chase gigantic northerns in Manitoba last summer and brought a few fish home, thanks to my friend Shel Zolkewich.
Since then I’ve made classic pickled pike, Polish fried pike nuggets and a pike soup I dedicated to Manitoba. That left me with just enough pike to make two last recipes. One is for this Midwestern-style fish cake recipe.
Oh, and you should know that you can use virtually any species for these fish cakes. Pike is just what I happened to use.
I must admit the idea to mix wild rice with a fish cake isn’t original; I developed my recipe from one I read in Midwestern Living magazine. It’s a great idea, though, as the wild rice is both native to the region and adds a bit of color and texture to the fish cakes. Just make sure you cook the wild rice completely before adding to the fish cakes, because the cakes cook up quickly.
Pike cakes are a natural because of the fish’s many bones. True, it’s not that hard to fillet a pike, and I have detailed instructions here, but it’s easier to fillet as normal, gently poach the fish in chicken broth, and then flake out the meat.
You only need a half-pound for this recipe, so vacuum seal any extra and freeze for later. You’ll want to make these fish cakes again.
How do they taste? Just really good. There’s no one overwhelming flavor, although you do pick up the mustard and the chives in every bite. The fish is mild, the mayo keeps everything moist and the Worcestershire and lemon just brighten things. This is good Midwestern food without the blandness that mars that region’s culinary reputation.
What’s more, they are stupid easy to make, and can be done start to finish in 30 minutes, if you’ve precooked the wild rice — which I do. I cook a batch, then freeze it for when I need it. Do this, and you have a light, easy, 30-minute meal. A rarity on this site. 😉
- 1/2 pound cooked, flaked pike or other while fish
- 1 egg
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup cooked wild rice
- 1/4 cup minced onion, red if you have one
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon mustard, Dijon if you have it
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
- 1/4 cup butter, lard or vegetable oil for cooking
- Greens for a salad
- Make sure any little bones are out of the fish. Mix everything (except the oil and salad greens) together in a large bowl. Divide the mix into 8 roughly equal parts and form into patties. If you have time, set the patties on a cookie sheet in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up. You can skip this step if you are rushed.
- Fry the patties in the butter until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Serve with a green salad with a nice vinaigrette, or try my saffron aioli.