Week 1: Ben Blake's Thai Mackerel Cakes with an Orange Chili Sauce And A Side of Szechuan Green Beans

Editor's note: Recipes appear as submitted and written by contestants.

Secret ingredients: Canned mackerel from King Oscar, Fresh green beans from Tony's Fresh Market, Rice cakes and Navel Oranges from Northern Illinois Food Bank

For the Thai Mackerel Cake

4 cans King Oscar canned Mackerel with olive oil

2 rice cakes (plain or butter flavor will work)

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 minced bird's-eye chili or 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons minced cilantro

2 tablespoons grated ginger

3 chopped green onions (whites and pale green only)

Juice of a ½ lime

1 teaspoon lime zest

½ tablespoon fish sauce

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

½ cup flour

2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil

8 trimmed green beans for garnish

For the Orange Chili Sauce

2 tablespoons chili oil or extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

1/3 cup rice vinegar

Juice of one 1 orange

Juice of ½ lime

1-2 tablespoons chili paste depending on preferred spice level

2 teaspoons fish sauce

¼ cup of sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the Szechuan Green Beans

1 pound green beans

2 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon grated Szechuan peppercorns

2 tablespoons soy sauce

3 green onions (whites and pale green only)

2 tablespoons chili oil or extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chili paste

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

¼ cup water

Thai Mackerel Cake: Take the King Oscar's Canned Mackerel and drain the oil from the can. Flake the fish in a bowl with a fork and add mayonnaise, fish sauce, lime juice, green onions, pepper flakes, cilantro, ginger and lime zest. Mix the contents of the bowl.

Scoop the mackerel mixture into 12-15 balls with an ice cream scoop onto wax paper on a tray. Put the tray into the freezer for about 15-20 min to firm up the mackerel cakes.

While the cakes are in the freezer, whisk together one egg with 1 tbsp. of water. Take the rice cakes and put them in a food processor so that the texture is similar to rice flour and put them in a bowl. Take the flour and add it to a bowl as well.

Remove mackerel cakes from the freezer, coat into the flour, wipe off excess flour, then coat in egg, then into the rice cake flour, set back on tray and slightly flatten the ball. Heat a pan on the stove (medium heat) and then add the oil. Place cakes into pan and cook for about 3-4 min per side or until golden brown. Serve mackerel cakes immediately or set in a warm oven while you make the sauce.

Garnish: Dip 10 trimmed green beans in flour, then egg, then rice cake flour. Use oil in a pan to fry the green beans for about 1 min or until golden brown. Top Thai Mackerel Cakes with rice cake green beans.

Sweet and Spicy Orange Chili Sauce: Add oil and garlic to a sauce pan and cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes. Then add fish sauce, orange juice, lime juice, chili paste to the oil and garlic. Cook for an additional minute.

Add the rice vinegar and sugar then bring to a boil. Whisk in cornstarch to thicken the sauce and reduce for about 10 min on medium low heat making sure to stir occasionally to avoid burning the sauce.

Once reduced, add in orange zest. Salt to taste. Lay the sauce on a plate with a spoon and put the Thai Mackerel Cakes on top or top the cakes with the sauce.

Szechuan Green Beans: Heat pan (Wok preferred) on medium heat so that water sizzles when dropped onto it. Add oil and green beans and cook them for about 5-7 minutes or until the start to shrink.

Stir in the garlic, green onions, chili paste and peppercorns to the pan and cook for another minute.

Mix in soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar and water. Cook until the liquids are evaporated.

Remove from heat, salt to taste, Serve the crispy green beans on the side of the Thai Mackerel Cake.

Serves 4

Ben Blake

Ben Blake
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