Baked Fishcakes

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Baked fishcakes. (Stefan Wettainen)
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Baked Fishcakes

Though fishcakes are common in many cultures, this two-step method for cooking them is distinctively Russian. First they’re sautéed on the stovetop, then they’re steamed in the oven. The steaming approximates the moist heat of the Russian masonry stove, yielding handsome, lemony, herb-strewn fishcakes.

Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound halibut, halibut cheeks, or cod, cut into small pieces
  • 1 small egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup rye flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
  • 8 lemon slices
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions

Grate the onion in the bowl of a food processor. Add the fish, egg, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Pulse until ground medium-fine. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Peel and smash 2 of the garlic cloves and set aside. Mince the remaining 2 garlic cloves and set them aside, too.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut out a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover a 12-inch skillet and grease it with the 1 teaspoon butter. Mix the rye flour with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and spread on a large plate.

Remove the fish mixture from the refrigerator and pour off any liquid that may have accumulated in the bottom of the bowl. The fish will be very moist, so it helps to moisten your hands with cold water before working with it. Gently shape the fish mixture into 8 round patties, setting each one on the rye flour as soon as it’s shaped. Carefully turn the patties to coat both sides well.

Heat the oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, and the 2 smashed garlic cloves over medium heat in a 12-inch cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet. When the butter begins to foam, add the fishcakes. Cook for 4 minutes, periodically sliding a spatula under the cakes to make sure they don’t stick. After 4 minutes, turn the fishcakes and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook the second side for an additional 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle the fishcakes with the parsley, dill, and minced garlic. Top with the lemon slices. Lay the parchment paper, buttered-side down, over the fishcakes, pressing down lightly. Cover the pan with an ovenproof lid. (If the pan doesn’t have a lid, cover it with tightly sealed aluminum foil.) Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the lid and parchment paper and sprinkle the chopped scallions over the fishcakes. Serve directly from the skillet.

Recipe reprinted with permission from “Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore” by Darra Goldstein, copyright 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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