Polenta-Crusted Fish Cakes And Panko-Crusted Asparagus

Polenta-crusted fish cakes and panko-crusted asparagus

I'm still on my mission to try more interesting fish recipes, so when I came across these polenta-crusted fish cakes in Food & Wine, I quickly dog-eared the page. In the same issue, I found a recipe for panko-crusted asparagus and decided that since I was already frying fish cakes, I may as well fry asparagus too and try both recipes in one night.

I first read through both recipes so I could figure out how to get the fish cakes and asparagus on the plate at the same time and have both be piping hot, and then I got to work. I made the tomato sauce for the fish cakes (oh yes, there's a tomato sauce) and set it to the side, and then I started boiling the potatoes for the fish cakes. While the potatoes boiled, I prepped, dredged, and coated the asparagus. Then I shaped all the fish cakes and rolled them in polenta. Because the asparagus can be kept warm in the oven, I fried the stalks first, transferred them to a sheet pan, and let them hang out in the oven while I fried the fish cakes.

It took much longer to do all of this than I had anticipated, but I also felt a little scatterbrained in the kitchen that evening (do you ever have those nights when you just can't focus?), so if I had been more on top of my game, I think I would have gotten dinner on the table more quickly. I'd say make sure to give yourself at least about an hour and a half if you make both dishes. (I also wrote the recipes separately in case you don't want to make both.)

Tomato Sauce (adapted from Food & Wine, May 2011)


1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
5 plum tomatoes from 1 can whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup water


Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and any collected juices, and cook over medium heat until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste and water, and cook for 2 more minutes. Season with salt, and set sauce aside to serve with fish cakes.

Polenta-Crusted Fish Cakes (adapted from Food & Wine, May 2011)
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3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup instant polenta
1 1/2 pounds skinless cod, cut in 1-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil


Place potatoes in a saucepan, and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil, and continue to boil over medium-high heat for 7 minutes. Drain well, and lightly mash potatoes with a fork. Set them aside.

Spread the polenta in a large, shallow dish.

In a food processor, combine the fish, garlic, salt, egg, and crushed red pepper, and pulse until fish is coarsely chopped.

Dump the fish mixture into a large bowl, and fold the potatoes into the fish mixture.

Shape the mixture into about 12 patties, and coat the patties on both sides with the polenta.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Pan-fry half of the fish cakes over medium-high until cooked through and golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Transfer the cakes to a plate lined with paper towels.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet, and fry the remaining fish cakes.

Transfer those to the paper towel-lined plate too. Serve hot or at room temperature with tomato sauce.

Polenta-crusted fish cakes

Note: The recipe yields a lot of fish cakes, and they're very filling, so I'd either recommend waiting to make these on a night when you'll have a few guests over or refrigerating half of them before you fry them so you can make more the next night. I went the route of refrigerating some of them, so I let the potatoes cool before folding them into the fish mixture.

Panko-Crusted Asparagus (adapted from Food & Wine, May 2011)
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1 cup panko
1/4 cup flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
1/2 cup canola oil
Kosher salt


Preheat oven to 225 degrees, and line a sheet pan with foil.

In food processor, pulse panko until fine.

Set up three shallow dishes, place the flour in the first one, the eggs in the second one, and the panko in the third one.

Dust all but the tips of the asparagus with the flour. (It's easiest to do this by holding the asparagus stalks by the tips.)

Dip the floured part of the asparagus in the egg.

And dredge all but the tips of the asparagus in the panko.

In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Line a plate with paper towels.

Fry the asparagus in batches, turning, until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the asparagus to the paper towel-lined plate, and season with salt.

Panko-crusted asparagus

After each batch has dried on the paper towels, transfer it to the prepared sheet pan, and place the asparagus in the oven to keep warm until all batches are ready. Serve hot.

Panko-crusted asparagus

The asparagus stalks were well cooked and softened from spending some waiting time in the oven, so the crunchy panko coating provided the perfect contrast to the tender vegetable. The cumin-scented fish cakes topped with the garlicky tomato sauce paired well with the asparagus and filled us up. I think it's all those potatoes in the fish cakes. I liked that the polenta merely acted as a crispy coating and the fish cakes were all fish and potatoes and weren't padded with bread crumbs.

Have you ever made fish cakes before?