Though fishcakes are common in many cultures, this two-step method for cooking them is distinctively Russian. First, they’re sautéed on the stovetop, then they’re steamed in the oven. The steaming approximates the moist heat of the Russian masonry stove, yielding handsome, lemony, herb-strewn fishcakes.
Serves 3 to 4
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound halibut, halibut cheeks, or cod, cut into small pieces
1 small egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup rye flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
8 lemon slices
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
Grate the onion in the bowl of a food processor. Add the fish, egg, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pulse until ground medium-fine. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Peel and smash 2 of the garlic cloves and set aside. Mince the remaining 2 garlic cloves and set them aside, too.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut out a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover a 12-inch skillet and grease it with 1 teaspoon of butter. Mix the rye flour with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of each salt and pepper and spread on a large plate.
Remove the fish mixture from the refrigerator and pour off any liquid that may have accumulated in the bottom of the bowl. The fish will be very moist, so it helps to moisten your hands with cold water before working with it. Gently shape the fish mixture into 8 round patties, setting each one on the rye flour as soon as it’s shaped. Carefully turn the patties to coat both sides well.
Heat the oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, and the 2 smashed garlic cloves over medium heat in a 12-inch cast-iron or another ovenproof skillet. When the butter begins to foam, add the fishcakes. Cook for 4 minutes, periodically sliding a spatula under the cakes to make sure they don’t stick. After 4 minutes, turn the fishcakes and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook the second side for an additional 4 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle the fishcakes with parsley, dill, and minced garlic. Top with lemon slices. Lay the parchment paper, buttered-side down, over the fishcakes, pressing down lightly. Cover the pan with an ovenproof lid. (If the pan doesn’t have a lid, cover it with tightly sealed aluminum foil.) Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the lid and parchment paper and sprinkle the chopped scallions over the fishcakes. Serve directly from the skillet.