The Early American period was a time of great growth for America. But our Founding Fathers and their offspring were thrifty, wasting nothing, especially food. Cod cakes are a great use of leftovers. Everything is already cooked and brought together into a new dish.
In 1832, the American Frugal Housewife wrote, “There is no way of preparing salt fish for breakfast so nice as to roll it up into little balls, after it is mixed with mashed potatoes, dip it into an egg, and fry it brown.”
We found the quote above in the Old Sturbridge Village Cookbook: Authentic Early American Recipes For The Modern Kitchen by Debra Friedman and Jack Larkin. The book highlights one thing about Colonial/Federal cooking; it was simple. The recipes (called receipts back then) were two or three ingredients and often devoid of vegetables. The focus was clearly on meats and fish and bread.
We have adapted the codfish cakes recipe below from the cookbook. It’s simple, goes great with tartar sauce or as a fish sandwich and is even better the second day.
- 1 pound cod, fresh and skinless
- 1 large russet potato
- 1 small onion
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- salt & pepper
- Bake a russet potato, place it in a large bowl, and hand mash the potato, leaving large chunks
- In a small frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the diced onion and sprinkle with salt. Cook thoroughly. Add to the bowl with the potato.
- Pan fry the cod, 5 to 6 minutes per side until cooked through. Add the fish while still warm into the bowl with the potato and onion. Add a dash of salt and/or pepper if desired.
- Add the egg to the bowl.
- Hand mash all the ingredients until well-blended, don’t over mash.
- Heat a griddle to medium/high and melt the butter onto the surface.
- Hand pack the cod mixture into patties and place on the grill. Cook through, about 5 minutes per side.
- Makes 4 to 6 cod cakes.
Cooking tips. Go light on the salt because the fish already has plenty. We went heavy on the cod and lighter on the potato, most cod cake recipes are closer to 50/50 if you’d like to be more authentic.
This dish is great for kids, especially as a sandwich. We thought it was a solid alternative for a barbecue as well if people want something a little lighter than a hamburger or hot dog. Also, think about menu planning, cook extra fish and potatoes one night so you can whip this recipe up in less than 20 minutes on the next. We’re pretty sure you’ll find yourself making this recipe again and again. Enjoy!