JEKYLL ISLAND FISH CAKESI WAS IN BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA, TO FOLLOW UP ON the town’s claim to be the home of Brunswick stew (dubious), to view the putative “original pot” mounted at the Welcome Center (impressive), and to sample as many bowls of stew as possible (good and bad), when somebody began raving about the fish cakes served at
some family-style restaurant over on Jekyll Island.
Perched in a faded Naugahyde booth, I was indeed stunned by the light, crispy, flavor-packed cakes, and when I hopped up and asked the hefty woman cook back in the small kitchen what her secret was, she simply muttered, “Mixed fish and clean oil.” What she meant by mixed fish was a combination of lean and fat fish for the right flavor and texture—a principle that had never dawned on me but that made a lot of sense. Sea bass and salmon make a perfect union for these cakes, but you could also combine halibut and bluefish or grouper and trout.
1 pound sea bass fillets
1⁄2 pound salmon fillets
1 whole lemon, cut in half and seeded
1⁄2 bay leaf
3 scallions (part of green tops included), minced
1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 1⁄2 cup dry bread crumbs 1⁄3 cup vegetable oil
Lemon wedges, for garnish Arrange the fish fillets in a large nonreactive skillet, add enough water to barely cover them, squeeze the lemon halves into the water, and add the peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring water to a low simmer, cover, and cook till the fish flakes, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the fish to a plate, let cool completely, remove any skin, then flake well with a fork. Place the flaked fish in a mixing bowl, add all remaining ingredients except the vegetable oil and lemon wedges, and mix gently till the ingredients just hold together. Form the mixture into 4 to 6 oval cakes and place on a plate. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat till a morsel of bread tossed in the pan sizzles, add the fish cakes, and cook till golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with the lemon wedges to be squeezed over the