Easy Pan-fried Crappie Cakes- By: Whitney Grimes
My parents live on a lake. My dad can build anything, and Mom wanted a chicken coup. She is a backyard chicken lady with about 20 chickens and gets between 10 and 12 eggs per day. Two people cannot, and should not eat that many eggs, so the surplus goes to people they work with or neighbors for donations or trade. One such trade comes from a neighborhood fisherman. He trades excess bags of freshly caught fish for eggs.
Much like the eggs, my folks can only eat so much fish between the two of them. So…score one for our house; I got handouts. With pounds and pounds of crappie filets in my deep freeze, I had to find a new way to use some of it. Queue the Crappie Cakes.
Growing up in the South, most of us have tried some rendition of a fish cake. It’s usually some sad version made with canned tuna or salmon and crushed crackers. It is what I call a “grandma recipe.” It’s not terrible, but it’s nothing to write home about, or even get excited about. Whenever I see recipes that make me go “meh,” my first response is always, “I can do better.”
I fully thawed a bag of crappie filets because that is what I have and they have a nice mild and buttery flavor that I personally love. I diced it all up into cubes about a half inch or so. Next I raided my fridge and pantry, because all my cooking starts with a half-baked idea and zero planning. I chopped some green onions, minced some parsley, zested a lemon and found some freeze-dried dill and garlic powder in the pantry. I would highly recommend adding a little cayenne pepper for that layer of flavor, but I am feeding a 6 year-old with little to no appreciation for the depth of flavor a little heat can add. If you choose to use cayenne, I would stick to just a dash. It’s there for background, not the main event.
I mixed it all up in a big bowl and then stirred in 3 beaten eggs. My eggs were all different sizes because I have access to fresh eggs. If you buy extra large eggs, you may only need 2. If you have guinea fowl eggs, you may need 5.
Here is where it gets interesting. I stirred in some prepared breadcrumbs. I had plain store-bought breadcrumbs which have a consistent fine texture and some panko breadcrumbs that give a crisp crunch. I used about ½ cup of plain breadcrumbs and ¼ cup panko. I added until I reached a gummy consistency to fill in the gaps between the fish chunks. You do “you” at this point; if you want to make breadcrumbs, good for you. If you want to crush crackers, use all panko, or any other variation of breadcrumbs, go for it. I would caution against pre-seasoned breadcrumbs, as they will throw off your other seasonings.
While all that rested, and the egg fully saturated the breadcrumbs, I poured about a half inch of canola oil in a high-sided skillet and heated over medium heat. Do not use oil with too much flavor or a low smoke point, like olive oil or coconut oil. I would recommend canola, corn, peanut, vegetable oil blends or shortening. I dropped a little piece of fish into the oil to check for temp and got a satisfying sizzle.
Game on. I formed patties about the size of my palm and about an inch thick. I placed them into the oil as I shaped them. They are sticky so they can’t really be formed ahead of time. I found that I could get three formed and frying, plus my hands rinsed off, just in time to start flipping. I like silicone tongs for turning. Any time I try to flip with a spatula, I inevitably splash and make a huge mess. This is often followed by burns and/or inappropriate and colorful language for my child to repeat at school. I removed them to a wire rack on a sheet pan to drain.
I served these up with lemon wedges, a side of salad and sourdough rolls because that’s what I had on hand. These would be great as sliders on rolls, with tartar sauce, on a salad, or really just straight out of the pan. I hope you enjoy them as much as my family did. My little food critic ate the whole thing without a negative comment. For those of you not trying to feed kiddos, that is practically a five star rating.
Have I mentioned that I measure nothing? Feel free to follow the below measurements with varying degrees of accuracy.
· 1 ½ pounds crappie filets, diced
· 2 green onions, thinly sliced
· 2-3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
· ¼ tsp garlic powder
· 1 tsp – 1 Tbsp freeze-dried or fresh dill, chopped
· ¾-1 tsp kosher salt
· Freshly ground pepper to taste
· Zest of 1 lemon
· Dash of cayenne, optional
· 3 eggs, beaten
· ½-1 cup bread crumbs
· Oil for frying
Combine all ingredients except oil in a large bowl and stir until combined. Let rest while bringing oil to heat over medium heat in a large high-sided skillet. Form 1 inch thick patties and place gently into hot oil. Fry until crisp and golden then gently turn and cook other side. This takes approximately 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the second, depending on the temperature of your oil. Remove to a draining rack.
Serve immediately or hold in a preheated oven set to the lowest heat for up to 30 minutes. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3-5 days. To reheat, place in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium low heat and cover with a tight fitting lid. Remove lid and heat other side uncovered until warmed through and crisp again.