What’s in a name? And what’s in the meaning of the name? Think of meatballs. Dense, heavy, satisfying? Maybe. But what if you used a mild whitefish instead? But let’s not call it a “meatball,” ok? Because that just doesn’t sound as light, lemony and tender as these actually are. This is a baked dumpling, which, let’s be honest, just sounds better when it comes to fish.
I’ve been thinking about recipe standards a lot, too. Does one basic recipe carry over to another using the same proportions, but with main ingredient swap outs? In the case of meatballs :-), baked dumplings, they do.
You can use the recipe below, as the base for a beef, lamb, chicken, pork, or even (Yes! Say it!) baked fish dumplings. All that you’d need to do is swap out the main protein (meat, poultry or fish) and maybe the herbs and spices to your liking.
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Baked Whitefish “Dumplings”
- 2 cups fresh bread crumbs (not Panko), divided. (For beef, lamb, pork, and chicken, reduce the bread crumbs to 3/4 cup. Fish needs the larger amount to bind and give a dumpling texture.)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- Zest of one lemon (about two teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder)
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes or cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large egg
- 1 lb skinned and filleted mild whitefish (e.g., sole), finely minced or processed in a food processor
- 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 375F (190C) with the rack in the upper third (not the very top) of the oven.
- Combine milk with 1 and 1/2 cups of the bread crumbs in large mixing bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes.
- Mix in lemon zest, ginger, red pepper flakes (if using), salt, black pepper and parsley to the bread mixture.
- Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent (about 8 minutes). Let cool, then add to bread crumb mixture along with beaten egg.
- Hand mince or, if you have one, pulse fish in food processor approximately 10 pulses. Take care to not over process into a paste.
- Thoroughly combine fish with the bread crumb mixture and refrigerate for 60 minutes
- Form 1.5 to 2-inch fish balls (an ice cream scoop or 1/4 measuring cup works well for uniformity); gently roll balls in the remaining bread crumbs and bake on parchment or foil line baking sheets for 20-22 minutes. The fish will be cooked through and the bread crumbs ought to be lightly golden brown. If the bread crumbs have not sufficiently browned, switch your oven to the “broil” setting and broil them for about 1-2 minutes (keep a very close eye on them so that they do not burn).
- Let rest five minutes before serving.
- Serve in a light chicken or shrimp stock simmered with dry white wine and herbs. (Quick and simple recipe: 5 parts broth to one part dry white wine (e.g., a pinot gris or sauvignon blanc). Bring stock and wine to a light boil; lower heat to a simmer and add a few 1/4 inch pieces of ginger and a smashed garlic clove (remove ginger and garlic before eating), and reduce broth by 25%. Remove from heat and add in a squirt of lemon juice (from the lemon you zested for the fish dumplings), a small handful of chopped scallions, or whichever other herbs you like, such as cilantro, basil, etc.).
- Serve on a bed of arugula and chopped mixed herbs with a vinaigrette.
- Serve over rice with steamed vegetables