Dutch Carp Cakes
by Brad Fenson
Could you imagine the unfortunate situation of having to scrounge for food during World War II? I can’t help but think of the people of the Netherlands and how they struggled to put a meal on the table during the incredibly difficult times. Obviously nothing would go to waste and being known for extensive waterways, which also produced coarse fish, they often found what others might consider unpalatable poisson is what would sustain and fulfill people for days.
The Netherlands is also recognized for their incredible dairy and cheese products. Perhaps what they are not as well known for, are the potatoes and corn. Now, put it all together and imagine a monstrous carp that was big enough for five dinners along with leftover boiled potatoes and corn. It was a recipe that we would call “Dutch fish cakes” in modern terms, but was nothing more than fancy leftovers at the time. Netherlands is home to a variety of fish species, including bullhead, mullet, and different species of carp, and if anyone was lucky enough to obtain one, it definitely got turned into a meal.
I bring this up, to reflect on a possible “what-if” scenario around if people who lived along the Illinois River were in the same situation, looking for sustenance and nourishment in whatever was available around them. The exploding population of invasive carp is palatable protein if people would try to find a way to cook it. Families and communities could be supplied with an ample amount of freshwater fish with white flakes that would make you want to cook leftovers for a week. Picture this – avid sportsmen and women tailgating with their favorite “carp cakes” as the center of attention.
Hint – carp are known to be very bony. The best thing to do is fillet them and remove as many bones as possible. You can then run the fish through a food processor or grinder to make remaining bones unnoticeable, much like they do with commercial fish sticks you would buy in the store. Another trick is to put poached or steamed fish into a coarse screen and work the fish into a bowl, leaving the bones behind.
- 3 cups of cooked white fish fillets
- 3 cups mashed potatoes
- 1 egg
- 1⁄2 cup breadcrumbs
- ¾ cup finely diced onion
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Mix all ingredients together.
- Shape into patties and fry as is, or for a crunchier taste, press each side of the patty into panko crumbs or cornmeal.
- Fry patties in ¼ inch of vegetable oil on medium heat until golden brown, turning once.
Bringing Home the Fish
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