If you have read our blog before, you know that we love to start new traditions. Several years ago my sons and I started one of my favorite traditions. Every year during the ice fishing season we try to catch enough fish to feed us through all of the Fridays during Lent. We don’t eat meat on Fridays during lent, which I suppose is another tradition. It brings a little extra meaning to our fishing trips.
As we haul fish through the holes in the ice, we are thankful for our future Lenten meals. We never let any of the fish go to waste, we even use the scraps from filleting for trapping bait, or we mix them into our compost. We catch a variety of pan fish including crappie, perch and blue gill. And if we are lucky, we may even get a walleye.
Over the years one of our favorite dishes to have during lent is homemade fish cakes and marinara sauce. The sound of them frying in the pan always makes us hungry, and there are never any leftovers.
2 lbs fish, we use a variety of crappie, perch, blue gill and walleye (feel free to substitute whatever you like or what is in your freezer!), season with a pinch of salt and pepper
1 jalapeno finely chopped, seeds and ribs removed if you don’t want it too spicy
1 small onion chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp mayo
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 cup plus 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
vegetable oil for frying
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place fish in 13×9 baking dish and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes easily. Remove from baking dish with a slotted spoon (as there may be some liquid in the dish) to a large bowl, allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Using a fork, or the best utensils, your clean hands, break the fish apart into small pieces.
After 10 minutes, add onion, jalapeno, mustard, corn, egg, lemon, the 1/3 cup of panko, and seasonings. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes to allow flavors to combine.
After 20 minutes, put the 1 cup of panko on a plate and scoop about 1/2 cup of the mixture into your hands and form a “cake”. Coat with the panko and set aside. After all the cakes are formed, refrigerate the cakes for about 20 minutes to firm up.
Heat about 1/2 inch or so of vegetable oil in a shallow cast iron pan until the oil starts to “ripple”. After the cakes have set in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, slowly add them to the hot oil in small batches. I usually do 4-5 per batch. Once you see brown edges about 1/2 way up the side, turn the cakes to brown the other side. once beautifully browned on both sides, remove to a paper towel lined plate and lightly sprinkle with salt. Serve with home made marinara, yum!
When we sit around the table and enjoy these fish cakes we are reminded of our fun times on the ice. Inevitably the boys and I tell fishing stories, and argue over who caught the most fish. When you harvest or raise your own food there is always a story behind it. When you buy food from the store there is no story and there is no connection. Many of the traditions that we start only last a year or two, but I believe this one has hung around for a long time because of that connection. To us they are not just fish cakes they are hard work, fun times, and memories with my sons I will never forget.