You probably don’t want to eat tarpon. This advice is based on sheer practicality. Tarpon is smelly, has far too many bones to be practical, and doesn’t taste particularly better than any other fish. The best way to enjoy it is to poach the crap out of it and then make fish cakes with plenty of spices and aromatics so you don’t really taste the tarpon.
Even then, you’re probably better off just going to the store and picking up some salmon filets. They’ll taste better and are much, much easier to prepare.
Nevertheless, some people insist on cooking and eating the fish that they catch. If you happen to be such a person and you’ve got several tarpon filets on hand, here’s a basic recipe that you can use to make fish cakes with them.
Tarpon Fish Cakes Recipe
- about 2 quarts chicken broth or stock
- 3-4 lbs of cleaned and skinned tarpon fillets
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
- about 3 pounds of mashed potatoes
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of fancy mustard (deli or dijon)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- some oil for frying
Poaching and Deboning Your Tarpon
First, fill a big pot with 2 quarts of chicken broth or stock. Bring it up to a boil over high heat. While you’re waiting, cut down your fillets to make sure they’ll fit in your pot.
When your pot begins to boil, turn down the heat until the stock begins to simmer. Add your fillets and cook for about 10 minutes or until they’re done.
As your fish finishes cooking, turn off your burner and remove the fish with tongs or a slotted spoon. Let the fillets cool for a few minutes until they’re safe to handle.
When your fish is fully cooled, you’ll have to manually pull the meat off of the bones. This can take a bit of time. You’ll want to have a bowl handy to keep the meat in. The bones can go directly in the trash.
Making Your Fish Cakes
Once you’ve fully separated your fillets, grind it briefly in a food processor. You basically want very finely chopped fish, not a puree. If you don’t have a food processor, feel free to do this by hand or get creative with your blender.
Return your processed fillets to a bowl and mix them with the rest of your ingredients (but not the oil for frying). This includes the potatoes, onion, pepper, eggs, mustard, and seasoning. Feel free to add some additional spicy peppers (like jalapenos) or pretty much anything else you can think of to distract yourself from tarpon’s strong fishy taste. Mash everything together until you’ve got a fairly even paste.
Dust a work surface with a bit of flour and begin to make fish cakes from your paste. To do this, simply toss a ball of paste at your work surface and flatten it out into a cake-like shape. The amount of paste you use will determine the size of your cakes and how many cakes you can make.
Once you’ve made a frying pan’s worth of fish cakes, it’s time to cook them. Heat up a pan over medium-high heat and add a bit of frying oil. Cook a pan full of fish cakes for about three minutes a side, or until the edges are crispy. Everything but the egg is fully cooked, so you don’t need to go overboard. When the cakes are done, let them sit on top of some paper towels to drain off any excess oil.
Repeat these steps until you’re out of fish paste. If you want to keep your cakes warm, you can throw them in the oven on low while you cook the next batch.
If you’d prefer not to fry your cakes, you can simply bake them at 350 for about 15 minutes. Again, everything but the egg is cooked, so you don’t need to go too crazy with cooking times (although you do want to cook the onion and pepper a bit).
Tarpon isn’t the best fish to eat. While this fish cake recipe is pretty palatable, that’s because it works extra hard to mask the flavor of tarpon with lots of other strong ingredients.
Should you find yourself making this at home, feel free to vary the ingredients you use and include other flavors in order to really spice things up. Again, hot peppers are a great option, and capers, pickles, or even olives might also work well in these fish cakes.
Of course, the result of this recipe is something that’s edible but not particularly impressive. If you want to show off your fishing catch to company, it’s probably best that you wait until you catch something a bit tastier than tarpon.
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