Just like Norwegians, the Danes have long culinary traditions with fish. This is the Danish take on fish balls, or fish cakes. They’re called Fiskefrikadeller, and this is Lea’s family recipe.
Anne Marie, my Danish mother-in-law, is a terrific cook, so I have simply nicked her recipe. The only change I’ve made is the addition of chopped chives, and reduced the amount of onion a bit.
While this recipe uses cod, basically any sustainably wild-caught, white, lean fish will do; halibut, angler, monkfish, Atlantic redfish etc.
You will get the best texture by using a meat grinder, on medium coarseness. If you don’t have a meat grinder, you could use a stick blender, or an upright blender, but it will create a very fine paste. To add back some texture, consider hand chopping 1/4 of the fish.
- 1 kg cod fish
- 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 300 ml whole milk, or heavy cream
- 3 eggs
- 1 shallot, grated or very finely chopped
- a good handful finely chopped chives
- 200 g mayo
- 100 g sour cream or crème fraiche
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp capers, chopped
- 2 tbsp pickled cucumbers, chopped
- 2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp tarragon, or chervil & parsley, chopped
- Fine sea salt salt to taste
6-800 g boiled small potatoes to serve.
Start by mixing all ingredients for the remoulade. Make sure to fine tune flavor with fine sea salt. Set aside in the fridge until serving.
Fillet your fish (or have your fish monger do this for you), use a spoon to scrape the bones clean, chunk up the meat, and grind.
Preheat a cast iron pan on just under medium-high (like 60%).
Mix in 2 tsp fine sea salt, and stir well to incorporate. The mixture will start to bind. When it’s firmed up, add the remaining ingredients, but hold back half of the milk. Stir well and fully incorporate to a cohesive mass. You’re after a soft, but not decidedly wet mass. Consider if you have to add some more milk to get the right consistency.
When you’re satisfied, it’s a good idea to fry a small test, like the size of a marble. I always do this to check if I need a bit more seasoning.
When you’re happy with the seasoning, put the potatoes on, and start shaping and frying the Frikadeller.
Some like to shape with two table spoons, but I like to just wet my hands, and shape them by hand; I find this much faster, and easier to get them nice and even. Aim for something the size of a small clementine. Pat them flat on the top and put them in the pan.
Adjust the heat to get a nice golden brown and crisp surface, flip and fry the other side until they are not translucent in the center anymore. Turn off the heat, and let rest on the pan until you’re ready to serve.
My mother in law usually makes a huge batch of these frikadeller. They both freeze very well, and keeps well in the fridge too. A great lunch the day after is a slice Danish dark rye bread topped with some remoulade, a cold, sliced potato, and frikadeller on top.
Many of us unfortunately won’t be dealing with fresh fish for a recipe like this. This actually has some advantages, as fresh fish is always better. If you don’t have a meat grinder and are dealing with frozen fish, you can let the fillets thaw partially and grate them on a cheese grater, so long as the grater is moderately sharp. I’ve seen various recipes calling for cooled, flaked fish. This practically guarantees the result will be dry, or tough, or both. Fish should not be so much cooked as threatened. A few minutes of excess heat is all it takes to turn heaven to hell. This also makes very nice crab cakes, with the addition of finely chopped scallion.
Good tip about the grating there Timothy!