Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cod Fish Cakes

December 2009 264 Salted cod, or baccala, always makes an appearance in our household on Christmas eve. When I was growing up, it was always served crispy and hot after being floured and fried in deep, hot oil. After I got married, I started preparing it by dipping it in a beer batter first before frying. Then after a camping trip to Canada’s Gaspe Peninsula decades ago, where my husband and son caught enough codfish to feed the whole campground, I came up with a different dish, almost identical to this codfish recipe.

So there we were in the Gaspe and I had tons (well, more like ten pounds) of Codfish to deal with. We gave out lots of it to fellow campers, but kept a few pounds for ourselves. I wanted to try something other than the codfish and onions I had already sautéed for dinner one night but I hadn’t exactly brought my cache of cookbooks to search through.

Lo and behold, in a nearby museum was a display of what life was like in that region for early settlers. Codfish has been an important food source and export there for centuries. (For an interesting book on the fish, read “Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed The World” by Mark Kurlansky.) A cookbook was included in the museum display and I took a peek, coming across a recipe for codfish cakes, using mashed potatoes, eggs, parsley and a few other ingredients. I wrote down the recipe quickly and have used it year after year since then.

Last year, my father found the following recipe in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He made it and brought it to our house on Christmas Eve. It’s really the same recipe I found in Canada, but it calls for balls, rather than the flat “cakes.”  The oval shape is much easier to eat as finger food, making it perfect for any get-together, not just Christmas eve.

The trick is to get out there and buy that baccala. Today. At least if you want to serve it for Christmas eve. Baccala looks pretty unappetizing in the markets, stiff as a board and dry as can be. But after soaking in water for a couple of days (throwing out the water and adding new water a few times each day), the flesh becomes more like the fresh cod you buy in the supermarkets. Except it has that salty flavor that you get only from baccala.


These can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until heated through.

December 2009 266


Recipe from The Philadelphia Inquirer,

Anthony's Codfish Cakes

Printable Recipe Here

Makes 35-40 cakes or 10-12 servings

1 pound salt cod

3 to 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

Dash of hot pepper sauce

2 to 3 eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

Oil for deep frying

1. Soak the salt cod in water for 18 to 36 hours, stored in the refrigerator. Change the water several times, and check the cod by tasting a bit. You want it to be rehydrated and still salty, but not inedibly so.

2.   Drain the fish from the soaking water and rinse it. Put fish in a 5-quart pot with the potatoes. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove fish with a slotted spoon and let cool a little. Leave potatoes to cook until you can pierce them with a fork.

3.   Mince the cod. Peel and mash the potatoes. Combine cod and potatoes in a bowl with onion and parsley, hot pepper sauce to taste and eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the fish is salty already, and mix thoroughly. Make sure the mix is not too dry; if it is, add an extra egg.

4.   Heat a 2½-quart pot with about 5-6 inches of oil to about 350 degrees. Shape cod mixture into flattened egg-shaped cakes. Lower a few in the pan and fry them in batches until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. If not serving right away, they can be stored on a rimmed baking sheet and reheated in the oven before serving. Transfer hot cakes to a platter. (They're also great at room temperature.) Garnish with parsley.


  1. We love baccala, and I usually make the thick portions fried and simmer the thinner portions in a tomato sauce base. Your cod cake version sounds so good! I have a big piece of baccala soaking right now so I think I will save a portion and try this recipe. Thanks Linda!

  2. I love cod and fish cakes, so those would not last very lonmg at my table!



  3. What a great way to enjoy baccala. We always made it in a tomato sauce with green olives.

  4. I was going to make baccala stew if I could find baccala (negative, I am in lutefisk country). But I'd much prefer this little cod cake and have it as finger food. Maybe New Years....I love how your father found a recipe and made it.

  5. I haven't tried cod fish..

    Happy Holidays

  6. you know me - always looking for some new way to serve the same old thing and this fits the bill perfectly - you might have gathered by now that you are one of my most valuable resources - thanks again Linda - I hope this holiday season brings you the JOY that you so greatly deserve -

  7. I am always afraid to buy this dried out looking piece of wood, but you have turned it into something from my dreams! I love bacala and fish cakes.
    How 'bout stuffed calamari? (hint).

  8. This morning I was at my Italian market and baccala was sitting in almost every cart, it was a sight to see! This year I'm making stuffed squid and I was just coming over here to check out your version!

  9. The look of baccala has scared me off in the past but seeing the end result makes me want to run out to the store for it! Thank you Linda!

  10. I have never attempted baccala but your post and recipe details it so simply I must try now! Thanks so much!

  11. My mother always had the baccala soaking in the basement sink for weeks around Christmas. I used to be afraid to go down there because of it! This recipe is a wonderful way to use it.

  12. What a great recipe. I want to try these as an appetizer. They look wonderful and I love salt cod. Done deal for my kitchen. Have a wonderful holiday. Blessings...Mary

  13. I would be SO happy if these were presented to me!

    Thank you for sharing the recipe Linda~ fresh or made with baccala I would be in heavenly bliss. Thank you for sharing ~ I LOVE your blog!

    Sending warm wishes for a lovely holiday to you and your loved ones.

  14. Thanks for the great idea. My Italian friend just took salted cod from the fridge today! While I've never actually made anything with salted cod, my dad always got excited to see it this time of year.

  15. Sono davvero squisiste le polpette di Baccalà. Buon Natale, un abbraccio Daniela.

  16. Linda, I think the most important step is soaking the cod in water and to the point where there's juuust enough salt still in it.

    Sadly, I ate some salt cod that was too salty. Your fish cakes would have been most welcome.

  17. Linda, I think the most important step is soaking the cod in water and to the point where there's juuust enough salt still in it.

    Sadly, I ate some salt cod that was too salty. Your fish cakes would have been most welcome.

  18. I love fish cakes but could never stand baccala. My parents loved it but my sister and I couldn't stand it. We always had it stewed in a tomato based sauce. I find it amazing how all around the world Italians are making the same thing. We have taken our traditions and adapted them to the countries we live in. It is a joy to see these traditions live on. Wishing joy at Christmas.

  19. Baccalà is a MUST on our tables (Positano) for the holidays, especially xmas Eve. This recipe sounds delicious.

  20. These look amazing! What a great idea for Baccala'

  21. I think every country in Europe has it's version of bacalao... In Andorra and most of France we have a choice of buying it in board form or reconstituted into fish form...

  22. I don't know, Linda, I think you may have enticed me to come out of my baccala fear and give this a try. Did you get much snow in Princeton?
    ♥, Susan

  23. Hi Linda
    I saw a link to your blog in another blog and since I started reading, became a big admirer.
    Loved the photos, recipes, but specially the way you write, giving us the impression we know each other for a long time. Of course read the "Birthday soufflè" post and got so emotive. Also loved your sons cooking a pizza, Rocky everywhere in the house, and all the delicated Cartellate.About the Alaska ------> wordless.
    So, nice to meet you, I'm Ana and live in Brasil.
    Happy new year and I promise I'll always pop in here.

  24. Yummy. My family is always looking to try new foods. Thank you for sharing your recipe with us.