One thing I really dig about modern food trends is we seem to finally be moving away from the idea that all fat is bad. I may hate how we’re now demonizing all carbohydrates, but at least we can have our fat. Really, if you’re fat, don’t blame the fat, ’cause fat is good. Whether it’s the unsaturated fats and antioxidants in extra-virgin olive oil or the omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish, fat, like most things, is excellent in moderation.
I’m speaking here today about the oily fish. Fish are delicious, healthy sources of protein. Many of these fish are also placed in the category of “oily,” meaning high in fat and particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The experts talk about all the health benefits of omega-3’s, but the main effect is better blood flow, which has all sorts of healthy implications all throughout the body. Healthy heart, circulation, blood pressure, energy levels, and maybe even weight loss, can all be attributed to omega-3 oils found in these fish. So, we should eat more of it. Furthermore – it is also quite delicious. Otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it, now would I?
For an all-around healthy diet, you really can’t go wrong with Alton Brown’s series of lists. In this particular episode, he goes on to talk about sardines and how amazing they are to fill your weekly oily fish requirement. Simple idea, right? Sardines aren’t for everyone, though. They carry a strong flavor all their own. You could certainly follow Brown’s advice and drop the big bucks on Brislings (smaller, milder sardines which are not quite as “fishy”), but I’d like to present my favorite alternative, since I’m not the biggest canned sardine fan, either.
Instead of sardines, I’m fond of the canned smoked herring from Trader Joe’s. Inexpensive, minimal “fishiness,” a delightful smoky flavor, and loads of those healthy fish oils we love. I eat these pretty damn often – a fillet on a piece of toast with some avocado and a squeeze of lemon, or served atop crackers with cream cheese and capers.
Since they’re a full-flavored, preserved fish, I also developed a recipe inspired by the traditional salt cod cakes of Newfoundland.
Ingredients are as follows:
-A medium Yukon Gold potato, cooked and mashed. Keep the skin, it’s good for you.
-A handful of parsley, chopped
-About half a lemon’s worth of zest
-Half a small onion, chopped
-A garlic clove, microplane-grated or super-finely minced
-One 6.7 oz can of smoked herring, drained of excess oil
-One large chicken egg
-A pinch of dried thyme (use Savory here if you want to be really traditional)
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Breadcrumbs, for dredging – you can use Panko here; I had some stale bread laying around, so I made my own.
Combine everything but the breadcrumbs in a bowl and mix really well – you want to break up the fish into flakes and thoroughly combine. Once you do, divide into patties – I made four big ones; I wouldn’t go much bigger since these fritters are hard to handle and fall to pieces easily. Dredge them all in the breadcrumbs and fry them in olive oil over medium heat. Don’t touch them for a while during cooking – you want to get a really nice crust on them and you want the egg to set properly; otherwise they’ll just fall apart. After several minutes on each side, they’re ready to eat.
These are amazing little fritters – rustic, flavorful and slightly smoky. These are certainly not low-fat, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t healthy. Serve them with a salad, or whatever else you want. If you really want to make them sexy, top them with a gremolata – some chopped parsley, lemon, garlic and capers. Mmm. I’m going to do that next time.
As I said, canned sardines are not my favorite – these canned herring fillets have exactly what I like about sardines and nothing that I hate about them. I stock up on a few cans whenever I make it to Trader Joe’s. Of course, this is just my favorite weeknight oily-fish ingredient – the possibilities are many and varied.
By the way, who else loves pickled herring? ‘Cause I do.