One thing we have in plentiful supply in the Arkansas outdoors is bream. They are nearly everywhere, and we have to use “nearly” because of their absence in our trout streams.
Bream are catchable — most of the time. Anyone claiming that bream are “kids’ fish” is out of step or a snob or something.
Bream are delicious to eat too.
A personal opinion is that the top three fish found in Arkansas for table quality are crappie, bream and walleye, and in no certain order. Walleye and crappie are bigger than bream, so there is more to eat. Taste-wise, all three are excellent.
To get bream to the kitchen, some skill with a filleting knife is required. This is not difficult, but it takes doing it a few times and acquiring a delicate touch with the knife. An electric knife works well for this purpose, if you carefully control it.
OK, jump ahead. You have caught a mess of bream and filleted every one of them. You have a nice bowl of small fillets. Boil or steam them until they are opaque then let cool. Now there are all sorts of culinary avenues you can follow, and today’s focus is on bream cakes.
The state of Maryland has built a reputation for crab cakes, and yes, they are extremely good when produced by a competent cook. Bream cakes can be just as appealing on the dinner table.
An easy bit of advice is to just use your customary method of making fish cakes from canned salmon or tuna and substitute the bream for the salmon. Cut or flake the cooked bream fillets. Proceed as you do with salmon or tuna.
Most fish cake recipes make use of an ingredient like cracker crumbs, bread crumbs, even a packaged stuffing mix. Nearly all fish cake recipes get chopped, diced or minced onion into them. Beaten egg is usually called for. Seasonings are your choice, and these can be almost anything. Many Arkansas cooks bring in the Cavender’s here. That is the versatile Harrison-produced seasoning that includes oregano and other popular spices.
Bream cakes can be pan fried, oven fried or baked or cooked on a grill.
As with any fish cooking, you don’t want to overcook the bream cakes. Get them done enough and browned then take them out. Overcooked fish is ugh — cardboardy, not pleasing at all.
Still another avenue of choice on this fish cake topic is to use potatoes.
Boil and mash some potatoes and use this in place of the cracker crumbs or bread crumbs or the stuffing mix. Our reliable source who touts us on mashed potatoes for fish cakes hastens to say instant potato flakes will not work satisfactorily. We have not tried this but are merely passing along the caution.
Another fish cake cook likes to include a tablespoon of Dijon or other mustard in the mix. Gives the cakes just a bit of added zing. And surely someone will suggest a dash of Tabasco or similar hot sauce. Again, it’s your choice.
In this discussion of bream cakes, we have used the popular and all-inclusive title — bream. That includes bluegill, red-ear, green sunfish AKA rice-field slicks, and all the other fish in the bream category.
We have them in abundance, and they go well on the supper table.