Consider a hot batch of savory fish balls or fish cakes, made with seasoned mashed potato to stretch the fish and fried until crisp and golden brown. It’s a comfort food that connects generations.
In the early 20th century, seafood consumption peaked during Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, when many Catholics fasted and abstained from meat. Lenten dietary restrictions and an abundant supply fish supply lead to many seafood recipes like this one.
A cousin to codfish balls, which are deep-fried, fish cakes are patted out and fry up wonderfully in the pan—easier to prepare and a bit healthier, too. We’ve substituted the more-sustainable hake for the traditional cod, but any firm white fish will work. Double the recipe to feed a crowd or freeze half for later.
First, mix all of the tartar-sauce ingredients together and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 400°. Pat the fish dry; then place it on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake until cooked throughout, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Peel and chop the potato; then boil until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and let it rest in the colander a moment or two; then return the potato to the pot over low heat to dry out, mashing and stirring to prevent sticking. Reserve one cup of mashed potato in the pot (discard the rest, or save it to eat later). Add the tartar sauce, lemon zest, parsley, scallions, salt, pepper, and cayenne to the pot and mix gently, tasting until the seasoning is right.
With a fork, flake the fish into the potato and mix gently to combine. With floured hands to prevent sticking, shape the mixture into six 3-inch cakes. Brush each cake with beaten egg and coat completely with panko crumbs. Arrange the cakes on a large plate and chill 30 minutes, or up to one day.
In a large frying pan, warm the vegetable oil over medium heat until very hot. Fry the cakes about 5 minutes per side, or until crisp and golden brown, working in batches if needed. Drain on paper towels; then serve hot with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.