Old-fashioned Salt Cod Cakes with Bacon and Wilted Greens
Cod cakes are as much a part of New England as baked beans or lobster. Traditionally, they are rather heavy and blandly seasoned, but these are light and fluffy, and the potato coating adds a crisp texture to the dish. The bacon and sauteed greens create a perfect balance of color and flavor. The cod cakes may be shaped 1 day made ahead of time and refrigerated; fry just before serving.
- Cod Cakes
- Salt Cod - 1 lb, boneless
- Boiling Potatoes - 2 pounds, peeled and halved
- Unsalted Butter - 4 tablespoons
- Colman’s Dry Mustard - 1 tablespoon
- Worcestershire sauce - Few dashes (optional)
- Parsley - 1/2 cup, minced fresh
- Eggs - 4, lightly beaten
- Dried White Bread Crumbs - 1/2 cup (alt. dried cracker crumbs)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Baking Potatoes - 1
- Peanut Oil - For frying
- Bacon - 8 oz, cut into 1/8-inch strips
- Frisee (Curly Endive) - 1 lb (alt. Belgian endive, escarole, or radicchio)
- Cider Vinegar - 2 tablespoons
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
To make the cod cakes: At least one day before serving, place the salt cod in an 8-cup bowl of cold water, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours or more, changing the water at least 4 times.
Remove the fish from its soaking liquid, place it in a 12-inch skillet, and cover the cod with fresh cold water. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer the cod for 5 minutes, or until the fish is barely cooked through and has lost translucency. Remove the cod from the heat and drain well. Flake the fish with a fork, removing any skin or bones remaining, and set aside.
Cover the potatoes with cold salted water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a slow boil and cook the potatoes for approximately 30 minutes, or until tender. Drain the potatoes thoroughly in a colander, shaking it to remove excess moisture. Push the potatoes through a food mill or ricer, or mash them with a potato masher.
Melt the butter in an 8-inch saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Combine the onion, potatoes, flaked fish, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce (if used), and minced parsley in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs and bread crumbs and mix very thoroughly with a fork or your hands. Season with black pepper. Check the mixture for seasoning before adding salt (it is rarely necessary). At this stage, the cod-potato mixture will seem fairly wet.
Divide the mixture into 12 to 16 balls (2 per serving) and place them on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. With a pancake turner, flatten the balls into ovals and chill the cakes until firm, at least 20 minutes.
Peel the Idaho potato and grate it into a bowl of ice water through the large holes of a box grater. Drain the grated potato on paper towels and place it on a plate. Remove the cod cakes from the refrigerator and coat them on all sides with a thin layer of grated potato. Pour peanut oil into a 12-inch saute pan or skillet to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat the oil over to 376 F, or hot enough that a ring of bubbles appears when a bread cube is added to the pan. Add the fish cakes, being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry them until they are golden brown and crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the cakes with a slotted spatula and drain well on paper towels. Keep the cakes warm in a low oven while cooking the greens.
To make the greens: Place the bacon strips in a cold 12-inch skillet. Cook over medium heat until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan from the heat and remove the bacon pieces with slotted spoon. Drain the bacon strips on paper towels and set aside.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and place the pan over low heat. Add the greens to the pan with the cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook the greens for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are heated through but not limp.
To serve: Divide the greens evenly on the plates. Lean two cod cakes on each plate, one on either side of the greens. Garnish with bacon strips.