How was your Thanksgiving? The holiday came and went so fast and bam, here we are in December. Let the festivities begin!
Our seasonal decor is in the infancy stage so far. My husband has put up our outdoor lights and with some luck despite a busy weekend ahead, wreaths should be adorning our doors and greens should be creatively stuffed in our planters by the end of the weekend. Or at least the middle of next week if I’m being honest with myself.
And then of course there’s the tree. If you celebrate Christmas, when do you purchase your tree? Ours usually goes up after the first weekend of the month. But both of our daughters still want a say in the tree, and participate in the decoration which can make things tricky since they are away at school and on the other side of the country. So, I think our plan will be to purchase the tree ahead, put on the lights so we can enjoy them and wait to decorate until our college girl returns since our Cali girl won’t be home until just a few days before the holiday.
Thanksgiving was a little different for us this year. My husband’s entire family spent the holiday in Bermuda, a place that is very special to all of them. It was a wonderful opportunity to be together, sharing some highs and lows, missing those who are no longer with us, and strengthening the bonds among us.
One of the dishes we enjoyed on a few occasions were the famous Bermudian cod cakes that appear on menus everywhere. We tasted two preparations of the cakes during our stay, both of which were delicious but quite different in their presentation. The main ingredients in these cakes are salt cod that is rehydrated and then flaked, mashed potatoes, eggs and seasonings. One of the cod cakes we tried was formed like a burger, 4 inches wide and 1 inch deep or so and it was pan fried. The other was shaped into an oval (like a football) and deep fried for a crispy exterior. This version also had chives which I love. Both preparations were very tasty, although the deep fried version had a great ratio of crispy outside to creamy inside.
When I returned home, I wanted to recreate the dish, but make it much lighter, without the use of the potatoes which tend to make the cakes heavy. I started by looking at a cookbook I have been having great luck with of late, Kitchen Matters by Pamela Salzman. I learned about Pamela from my friend, Marte and have been following her for her California-style, healthy approach to meal prep. In her cookbook, she has a wild halibut burger that looked like exactly what I was seeking. But halibut can be hard to come by and is pretty pricey so I replaced it with the more readily available wild cod that also tied them back to the Bermuda fish cakes.
Ironically, in my weekly email from the New York Times, “What to Cook This Week”, there was also a recipe for Cod Cakes that looked really delicious and had good reviews (I hope you can open the link – you may need a NYT subscription to do so).
With some tweaking of my own, I put the two recipes to the test. The Times version was a denser, larger cake that had a higher percentage of bread crumbs (1 heaping cup to 1 pound of fish), really good flavor and texture. Pamela’s version had vastly less breadcrumbs (1/4 cup to 1 pound or so of fish), making the cake a little lighter. They also had a nice tang from a slightly higher percentage of Dijon mustard (2 Tb. versus 2 tsp. in the NYT recipe). I poached the fish first for both recipes as was suggested by the Times. Pamela’s recipe prepares the burgers using the raw fish.
My taste testers were my friend Sally who joined my husband and I for dinner. They liked both versions but Pamela’s won out. I thought it still needed a little more work to produce the flavor profile I was seeking. I went back at it again and think the recipe below is really yummy (as did the hubs who ate 2 for lunch).
I stuck with cooking the fish off first approach, but added in a little Old Bay seasoning for some extra flavor and omitted Pamela’s cayenne. I also added in some chives and a little more lemon zest and juice. The burgers have really great flavor and you can serve them with almost any kind of sauce you like, from a simple tartar sauce to a remoulade sauce. Put ketchup on them if that is what you like!
The recipe prepares 4-5 burgers, depending on the size you prefer (I made 4, five-ounce burgers). I think they make a terrific light lunch or dinner. I also think you could serve these as a first course for a dinner party. Cook them off ahead and keep them warm in a very low oven. Yum.
I hope you make these and if you can’t find wild cod, use regular cod or really any white fish that easily flakes should work in the recipe.
See you next week!
Serve it on a bed of lightly dressed arugula or on a bun…