Big Jones, Chicago
At his Chicago restaurant, Paul Fehribach buys whole fish and uses the heads and backbones that don’t make it to the diners’ plates for stocks and sauces. But even after the stocks are made, some of the most flavorful meat of the fish remains. Fehribach and his team carefully pick the meat from the bones to make this recipe, but this dish easily translates to the home kitchen—just use a couple of fillets from last night’s dinner and any leftover rice you have on hand.
15 to 20 fritters (about 6 to 8 servings)
- 1 cup short-grain rice such as carnaroli (or use about 2 ½ cups of leftover rice)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus about 2 quarts for frying, divided
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup green onion tops, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 to 2 cups pulled fish meat, coarsely chopped
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 1/2 pound homemade bread crumbs or panko
If you’re making fresh rice, cook the rice in a 2-quart saucepan with a tight fitting lid, and have it hot and at the ready to make the croquette filling. If using leftover rice, steam to heat up for use in the next step.
In a 4-quart cast-iron Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over high heat until smoking, then add the yellow onions and garlic. Working quickly and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, sauté until the onions have sweat, but make sure not to brown the onions, about 2 minutes. Add the green onions, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, then reduce the heat to low. Fluff the rice with the tines of a fork and add to the pot and stir in well.
Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash the rice a bit until everything begins sticking together. Add the pulled fish meat and turn the heat up to medium, stirring the mixture constantly to prevent burning while you work the fish in and bring everything up to 165°F on a food safety thermometer.
Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet with edges and spread out until it’s about an inch thick. Let cool uncovered for 30 minutes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight before breading and frying.
Use a small ice cream scoop to shape the filling into balls, about 3 tablespoons each. Roll the mixture between the palms of your hands to smooth it out on all sides and place on a baking sheet with plenty of space between each ball. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy with a wire whisk and then whisk in the water. Fill a large pie pan with the bread crumbs and reserve any extra bread crumbs.
Roll each ball first in bread crumbs, then gently roll between your palms again to work crumbs into the filling. Roll the ball in the egg wash, wetting all sides, then roll in bread crumbs again. Roll a little more firmly after the second dip using your fingers and palms to finalize the fritter into a fat egg shape. Return the breaded croquettes to the baking sheet and repeat until all have been breaded. Refrigerate, covered loosely with plastic wrap, until ready to fry.
Use a home deep fryer or 4-quart cast-iron Dutch oven. If using a Dutch oven, fill with about 3 inches of vegetable oil. Heat oil to 325°F and watch the temperature closely to maintain as close to this frying temperature as possible. Gently drop the croquettes in a few at a time, making sure there is plenty of space between each ball – don’t overcrowd or they may not brown evenly. Turn occasionally while cooking. Fry for 5 to 6 minutes, until the croquettes are a deep, rich, golden brown color. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Keep in a low oven while you fry any remaining fritters. Serve hot with aïoli, or with greens like creamed leek tops.
From Waste Not: How to Get the Most from Your Food by The James Beard Foundation/Rizzoli Publishing.