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Haddock, Tarragon & Lemon Fishcakes

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I am a true East Coast girl in every sense of the word. I like nothing better than swimming in rivers and oceans, picking wild blueberries, drinking Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale (the pride of Nova Scotia), BBQ-ing on the deck and gossiping with my mom and aunties.

Also, I’m kind of obsessed with seafood.

Mussels, lobster, clams, scallops, cod, haddock – these are some of my favourite things to eat, if they’re cooked right. Cooked right how? Well… barely cooked and served with some drawn butter is usually perfect, in my humble opinion.

No visit home is complete without a few trips to my favourite seafood-eating joints. I go to certain places for certain things. For example:

Lobster Sandwiches: The Herring Choker Deli, Nyanza, Cape Breton

Steamed Lobster Dinner (with all-you-can-eat chowder and mussels!): The Lobster Suppers, Baddeck, Cape Breton

Crab Legs, Mussels and Seafood Platters: The Rusty Anchor, Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton (Le Gabriel in Cheticamp also does a good platter)

Fish and Chips: The Cedar House, Bras D’or, Cape Breton

Fancy for wining and dining: The Chanterelle Inn, North River, Cape Breton

Seafood Chowder & Fishcakes with biscuits: Charlene’s Bayside, Whycocomagh, Cape Breton

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Fishcakes are some good eatin’. You’ll find them cooked different ways depending on where you are in the world. In Cape Breton, a fishcake is usually made with salt cod or haddock, onions and mashed potato. They get fried up and served with biscuits, baked beans and green tomato chow (only the yummiest condiment known to man). I love Charlene’s fishcakes so much, I asked her to cater my wedding and requested fishcakes with green tomato chow as the starter.

I like to make fishcakes myself every now and then. I play around with the type of fish and flavourings, but I always – always – make my fishcakes with mashed potato. It’s comfort in a small, disc shaped package. Fishcakes can be a lot of work if you make it a lot of work. I always do that – sautéeing, setting up an elaborate breading station, baking in the oven after frying… it really doesn’t have to be that complicated.

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In this case, though, I think I hit the mark. These fishcakes are simply flavoured, lightly breaded and seasoned so well you don’t even need a sauce with them. Since they’re made with potato, your starch is already taken care of. Lightly sauté some greens, or make a quick salad as a side dish, and dinner is taken care of. I served these haddock, tarragon and lemon fishcakes with some peas and spinach sautéed with garlic. And I’m salivating in remembrance.

What are your favourite spots in Ireland for seafood?

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Haddock, Tarragon & Lemon Fishcakes

Ingredients:

2 fillets fresh haddock, skinned and de-boned (I do this myself but you can get your fishmonger to do it, too)

4 medium sized potatoes

Juice and zest of one lemon

1 Tbsp butter

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs fresh tarragon (you can use dried as well; add it in while the fish is cooking)

3 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley

11/2 cup bread crumbs

3 eggs

1 cup AP flour

Oil for frying

Directions:

  • Peel and cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Cover with salted water and boil until fork tender.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the onions and bay leaf in the butter. Add the haddock fillets and, as they cook, break them up with a fork.
  • Add the lemon juice to the onion/bay/haddock. Cook until the haddock is opaque and the lemon juice has reduced. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf.
  • Finely chop the parsley and tarragon, if using fresh. Add the herbs and lemon zest to a mixing bowl. Add the haddock mixture to the same bowl and mix well.
  • When the potatoes are tender, drain well and mash with salt and pepper. Add the mashed potatoes to the haddock/herb/lemon mixture and mix well. *Taste the mixture to check for seasoning at this point, while it’s hot. Food tastes differently at different temperatures, and you’ll be eating these fishcakes hot.
  • Lightly mix one egg and add to the potato/haddock mixture. Mix quickly so the egg doesn’t scramble. If you’re in a hurry, put the mixing bowl in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. If you’re preparing the fishcakes in advance, pop the mixture in the fridge for an hour.
  • While the mixture is cooling, set up your breading station. You need four plates – one for flour, one for eggs, one for breadcrumbs and the last one for the finished, breaded fishcakes. Season the flour with salt and pepper; whisk the eggs with a fork. Set them up in the right order – flour, egg, breadcrumbs, finished.
  • When the haddock mixture is cool enough to handle, portion into equal sizes and shape into discs. Lightly coat each fishcake in the flour, then coat in egg and breadcrumbs. Place the finished fishcakes on the clean plate. This mixture will make 5-6 large fishcakes (about 1/2 cup mixture per fishcake).
  • At this point you can continue to chill the fishcakes until you’re ready to serve, or you can heat up some oil in a pan and fry them on each side until they’re golden brown. I preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius) and pop them in for 10-15 minutes after frying to ensure they’re cooked all the way through.
  • Serve hot with salad, sauteed greens, baked beans (these would be great with French-style cassoulet), chutney or country relish.

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