Monday, May 28, 2012

Sea Robin Fish Cakes

Rick and Annalee went fishing for the first time this year. Rick's hand still hasn't completely healed since he smashed it last August, so fishing was out for a while, but he was ready to give it a try. It wasn't looking awfully nice in the morning, but after a downpour, it brightened up and was just gorgeous the rest of the day. So, around 5:00 pm, Rick and Annalee got their fishing poles out and trooped on down the street to the beach. I decided to tag along just to see if the fish were jumping. I was hoping if they were biting we'd have some nice fresh fish for dinner since I hadn't done much planning yet on what to eat. We live only 1,000 feet from the beach, and as we walked down we reminisced on all the times I dragged the girls down to the beach in the wee hours of the morning so they wouldn't wake Rick up, since they woke up with the crack of dawn and he was often working 100 hour weeks and needed his rest. Or how the priest at the local Catholic Church would walk the mile from the church down to the beach carrying a huge wooden cross, while parishioners followed along behind. He would give a short sunset service followed by refreshments (someone would drive down with containers of coffee and tea, and assorted goodies) while the kids would take an evening swim. We made a habit of being down there on sunset service evenings because it was such a wonderful experience, no matter your religious affiliation. I was sorry when that tradition ended. And, of course, we remembered all the "old timers" who would wander down each evening and sit on their overturned buckets, holding their poles, waiting for the fish to jump. We would always arrive to find everyone staked out at their favorite spot on the beach, or standing at the top of the stairs for a better view, joking back and forth, watching and waiting. Then you'd hear a shout, and the fish would be jumping, and everyone would start casting. When we first moved here 31 years ago, Rick and I weren't savvy about a lot of things. Mr. Mattson, our neighbor (whose father-in-law built our house in 1929 and from whom we bought the house) took us under his wing. He passed on a lot of his knowledge of fishing to Rick. Mrs. Paccione, our neighbor on the other side, would catch these tiny little fish then stick her fingers in the gills and rip the heads off, tossing the bodies into a bucket to bring home, batter, and fry up. The girls would pop them in their mouths like candy. She taught me how to make fish head soup, which didn't go over well (although it was pretty good), because we kept trying to find the eyeballs. Most all of those old timers are gone now and I miss seeing them all sitting on their buckets. Fishing at the beach is still a popular past time, but it lacks some of the color and camaraderie it had back then.

Annalee casts off
Anyway, we were in luck. We were barely there -- maybe 10 minutes -- when Annalee caught a good-sized sea robin. We used to throw sea robins back until someone told us that they were actually pretty good eatin', just ugly looking and a huge pain to clean. Shortly after, Annalee caught another. Rick kind of shrugged and said she could always out-fish him, but I think he really wanted to catch one, too. By then, though, I figured we'd be eating fish, so I took off for home to get dinner going. I made some German potato salad and a zucchini corn soup because Annalee had been craving that. Then I got the ingredients ready to make fish cakes. Since sea robins are hard to clean, the meat gets kind of shredded during the cleaning process, so we usually make fish cakes with them, although battered and fried nuggets are good, too.

I forgot to take a photo of the finished fish cakes, but I did take a few not very good photos of Rick and Annalee fishing. Oh, and Rick caught himself a fish, too.

Rick and Annalee fishing
Sea Robin Fish Cakes
• 1 lb. sea robin, picked free of bones, chopped
• 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
• 1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
• 1/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 teaspoon spicy mustard
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• flour for dusting

1. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients, except for the flour. Shape into patties then dredge in the flour.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet. When oil is hot, carefully place fish cakes in pan and fry until browned. Carefully flip the fish cakes and fry on other side until golden brown.

We ate our fish cakes on toasted English muffins with everyone's personal combination of mayonnaise, horseradish, ketchup, and relish. 

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