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Salt Cod Cakes With Aioli

Ingredients

Poaching Liquid

1 quart water

1 cup milk

1⁄2 small onion

1⁄2 jalapeño or Fresno chili, seeded if you want it less spicy

2 cloves garlic

1 slice peeled fresh ginger

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

5 whole peppercorns

Aioli

2 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon cold water

1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 cup pure olive oil

1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cod Cakes

1 pound salt cod fillets

2 large Yukon Gold potatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1⁄2 small onion, minced

1⁄2 teaspoon minced garlic

1⁄4 cup finely minced celery heart and leaves

1⁄2 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced

1 to 1 1⁄2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 scallion, white and light green parts only, minced

1 or 2 shakes cayenne pepper

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water

1 cup flour

1 1⁄2 to 2 cups panko or fine bread crumbs

Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup watercress, coarse stems trimmed

1 cup arugula

Radishes sliced very thinly on a mandoline

1⁄2 lemon or lime

Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cindy’s Backstreet Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

8 ounces tomatillos, papery husks removed, cut into 1⁄4-inch dice

1 1⁄2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1⁄4-inch dice

3 scallions, white and light green parts only, minced

1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded if you wish, and minced

3 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves

1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon ground toasted cumin seeds (optional)

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

1. Soak the salt cod for 24 hours in at least 3 or 4 changes of water (more if you think of it—be liberal with the soaking). Rinse very well before you start the poaching step.

2. Combine all the poaching liquid ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a strong simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until flavorful and aromatic. If you wish, you can strain the liquid at this point, though this is not really necessary.

3. Add the salt cod and simmer until it is tender but not mushy and flakes easily, 15 to 20 minutes. Scoop out the fish and allow it to cool, then flake the fish into a bowl, picking out any bones and skin. Set the fish aside.

4. For the aioli, lightly beat the egg yolks together with the lemon juice in a medium-sized bowl. Mash the garlic to a smooth paste with a pinch of salt. Set aside one-fourth of the paste and add the rest to the egg-yolk mixture, along with the cold water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and stir. Gradually whisk in the oils, and continue whisking until the aioli is thick and creamy.

5. Taste, then fold in the remaining garlic paste and/or add additional salt if needed. Refrigerate until needed. You could make the aioli in a blender or food processor, if you prefer.

6. To prepare the cod cakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the potatoes several times with a fork, and bake them for 50 to 60 minutes, until fork-tender in the center. You can continue with other parts of the preparation, but as soon as the potatoes are done, stop whatever you’re doing and remove them from the oven. Cut them immediately, and press the ends together to open them so they don’t steam up and get mushy. Flake them into a medium-size bowl while they’re still hot, and set aside.

7. Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and slowly sweat until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to caramelize them. Allow them to cool, then add them to the bowl of potatoes, along with the celery, minced jalapeño, tarragon, parsley, scallion, cayenne, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of the aioli. Using a fork, mix thoroughly but gently. Add the flaked cod and give it a final gentle mixing, taking care not to break up the cod any further.

8. Form the cod mixture into 6 balls, using about 1/4 cup per ball. Chill well.

9. When you are ready to cook the cakes, mix the egg and water together to make an egg wash. Arrange a breading area, with the egg wash set between a small plate of flour and a small plate of panko. Using your hands, flatten the cod balls into cakes about 2 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. Dip the cakes into the flour, then the egg, then the panko, shaking off excess flour and panko as you go.

10. Pour the oil to a depth of 1 inch in a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat it to 375 degrees. Carefully add just enough cakes to fill the pan without overcrowding. Cook about 2 minutes on each side until golden and crispy, turning them once halfway through the cooking. As the cakes finish, transfer them to paper towels or a wire rack to drain. Keep in a warm oven until needed. Before cooking the next batch, skim out any bits left in the pan, and make sure the oil is at 375 degrees before going ahead. Continue until all the cod cakes have been fried.

11. For the salad, combine the watercress, arugula and radishes in a bowl. Squeeze in some lemon juice, drizzle with olive oil and toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper.

12. To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients except the vinegar and oil in a bowl. Mix well but gently, taking care not to mash the avocado. Whisk together the vinegar and oil until emulsified, and add just enough of this to the salsa to moisten it. Reserve any leftover vinaigrette to use in other salad dressings.

13. To serve, arrange the salad on plates, place cod cakes on the salad, and top with a couple spoonfuls of the tomatillo-avocado salsa, and garnish with the remaining aioli. You can thin the aioli with a drizzle of water, if necessary.

Serves 6

Reprinted with permission from Big Small Plates by Cindy Pawlcyn with Pablo Jacinto and Erasto Jacinto, copyright © 2006. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group. Photo Credit: Laurie Smith.

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