It does help to make the patties an hour or two in advance so they can firm up in the refrigerator before frying. They hold together better that way.
My husband points out that the reason the kids like these is that they're like big round fish sticks. I think of them more as crab cake stand-ins, but it doesn't matter much. They disappear quickly in our house.
Tilapia cakes with lemon-caper sauce
makes 12 generous patties
1/2 plus 1/4 cup mayonnaise, divided
4 Tbsp capers
juice and zest of one lemon
3 lbs tilapia fillets
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (dry or fresh)
salt and pepper to taste
flour, for dredging patties before frying
olive oil, for frying
Make sauce: In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup mayonnaise, lemon juice, capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until it's time to eat.
Make patties: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the tilapia fillets on a baking sheet about 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Let cool, then flake in a big bowl.
To the flaked fish add 1/4 cup mayonnaise, lemon zest, scallions, bell pepper, eggs, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together until all ingredients are well distributed, especially the eggs. Form into patties about the size of hamburgers - wet your hands first if it's too sticky. Put the patties on a baking sheet and refrigerate an hour or two to let the patties firm up a bit.
Heat about a half-inch of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Put some flour in a shallow bowl or on a plate, and coat each patty in the flour. This will make a nice crusty shell when you fry the patties, so even though it's a little bit of a pain, don't skip it.
Fry the patties in the olive oil until golden brown on both sides. Serve with the sauce. Watch them evaporate.