That “fresh tuna” laying there at the meat and seafood counter seems an enticing alternative to the canned stuff we’re familiar with.
But, unless you’re living on the coast, you might just wonder: How fresh is it? Plus, it’s expensive.
This recipe tackles both those issues: The added ingredients mean you won’t be disappointed if the flavor is not what you expect from “fresh.” And those ingredients stretch a small amount of tuna into a larger meal.
The recipe comes from St. Helena Island, the remote volcanic speck in the South Atlantic that served as Napoleon’s prison. Ships navigating the trade winds drop by, which explains the cuisine: ocean bounty, exotic spices and sturdy staples. The fish cake — a tuna-rich, potato-tender, chili-spiced wonder — is practiced there.
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The cakes have some kick. Cut back on the chili if you like ’em milder.
St. Helena fish cakes
Prep: 30 minutes; cook: 40 minutes;
makes: 4 servings
1/2 pound Russet potatoes, peeled, quartered
1/2 pound fresh tuna
Mild oil, such as canola
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1 slice bacon, diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 fresh serrano chili, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon each: salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne
1 egg, lightly beaten
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Settle potato chunks in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil; cook until tender (poke one with a skewer — it should be easy work), about 18 minutes. Drain. Press potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. Or smash with a potato masher. Let cool.
Use a sharp heavy knife to finely chop fish (a little coarser, say, than ground beef). Use a fork to gently mix into cooled potato.
Pour 1 tablespoon oil into a large skillet. Heat over medium. Scrape in onion, garlic, bacon, parsley, thyme, chili and spices. Cook, stirring, until everything looks brown and tasty, about 8 minutes. Scrape onto a plate to cool. Wipe out skillet.
Scrape cooled onion mix onto the fish and potatoes. Pour in egg. Scatter on zest. Mix, gently. Shape 8 pucks, each about 3/4-inch thick and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
Slick the skillet with oil. Heat over medium. Fry pucks until brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
Whisk mayo with 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Set 2 cakes on each of 4 plates; serve with a spoonful of lemon mayo.