Crab cakes are an easy sell. When you tell your dinner guests that crab cakes are on the menu, the response is usually positive, even enthusiastic. Now substitute fish cakes for crab cakes. The enthusiasm tends to wane. I’m not sure why crab cakes have gotten so much better PR over the years, because fish cakes can be every bit as delicious at a fraction of the cost.
If I had to guess, school cafeteria fish sticks may be partially to blame. Squishy, fishy and generally unappetizing, fish sticks are often a child’s first introduction to anything resembling a fish cake. In fact, they’re often a child’s first introduction to fish. Suffice it to say, the cafeteria version doesn’t make a great first impression.
It’s such a shame, because they can be a delightful way to entice your family into giving seafood a fair shake. Fish cakes, made of chopped fish that’s been seasoned, formed, breaded and fried, or pan-fried, often appeal to the seafood-averse because they’re crispy, firm and, if done well, don’t have a fishy flavor.
They’re also versatile. I often make them with tuna and serve them burger-style on a bun, topped with an Asian slaw and a wasabi mayo. They’re equally good made with halibut and served “fish stick-style” with a homemade herbed tartar sauce.
Salmon has been the fish cake of choice in my house lately. I like to serve the cakes with an assertive Dijon mustard yogurt sauce, spiked with briny capers. The brightness and acidity of the sauce pairs beautifully with the richness of the salmon cakes.
While there’s no guarantee that one good fish cake will turn a fish-phobic into a sushi lover, it’s a start.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.