Salmon Cakes: Old-School Redux

Salmon cakes | Photo by Keri White

We had salmon cakes for dinner the other night and they were a total revelation.

I had bought two cans of good-quality salmon from my favorite fishmonger, Otolith Seafood. I bought them really just to have on hand and give us some variety from canned tuna in a pantry pinch. When I asked her how to use it, she rattled off several ideas — use it like tuna mixed with mayo for sandwiches, flake it and toss it over a salad like a niçoise or make salmon cakes with some chopped onions, herbs, mayonnaise, egg and bread crumbs.

I found the third suggestion intriguing, and filed it away for future use. And that future arrived last night. Full disclosure, hopes were not high as I opened the cans; the bones freaked me out, and I picked them out as best as I could. But as I mixed up the ingredients my optimism began to percolate.

I planned a simple dinner of the salmon cakes with a fairly substantial salad, just in case the main dish was a bust. It was not. Here’s what I did.

Salmon Cakes
Makes 9 small salmon cakes, about 3 servings

This is a pretty basic version of the iconic dish, but you can vary it as desired — add garlic, celery, fresh herbs and/or peppers. Use seasoned bread crumbs or cracker crumbs in place of the panko. Add or subtract some of the condiment seasoning ingredients: Creativity is welcome.

For serving, I put out a variety of condiments — salsa, hot sauce, garlic mayo, tartar sauce, etc. Everyone assembled favorite combos, and there was not a crumb left.

2 cans salmon, picked through to remove larger bones if necessary
¼ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup panko bread crumbs, divided
1 egg
2 tablespoons cooking oil
Fresh herbs for garnish, if desired
Assorted condiments for serving

Flake the salmon in a large, shallow bowl. Add the onions, mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ½-cup panko bread crumbs and egg. Mix well with a fork.

Place the remaining ½-cup of panko on a plate. Using wet hands, form salmon cakes (approximately ⅓-cup each) and press each cake gently on the plate to coat lightly with panko. Place the coated cakes on another plate; repeat until the mixture is used up. It should be 8 or 9 cakes total.

Place the cakes in the refrigerator for half-hour or longer; this helps them set and prevents them from falling apart.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When a crumb sizzles in the oil, place the salmon cakes in the skillet. Cook for about 4 minutes or until golden brown and crispy, and carefully flip each cake. Cook another 3-4 minutes until the second side is done.

Garnish the cakes with chopped fresh herbs if desired, and serve immediately with your favorite condiments.

Hearty Root Vegetable Salad with Sweet Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 4

My daughter put this salad together to accompany the salmon cakes. She took one look at the initial salmon cake prep and grimaced. She wanted to make sure the salad was plenty substantial in case the salmon cakes did not turn out well, but in the end she enjoyed them immensely, and I was excused from salad duty, so everyone was happy.

There is plenty of room to improvise here; we had some leftover cooked beets and roasted sweet potatoes, and some fresh baby turnips from the farmers market. These components delivered a nice, hearty, root vegetable-based green salad, but feel free to swap based on what is in your larder … leftover roasted potatoes, broccoli or cauliflower? Some raw carrots? Sautéed green beans from two nights ago? All fair game.

The sweetness of the salad dressing adds another flavor element, which a nice contrast to some of the other ingredients.

Note: This dressing recipe makes enough for about 4 salads, so place it in a jar for the next few days.

For the salad:
1 large head lettuce or
1 package baby lettuces
1 cup chopped beets, raw or cooked
6 baby turnips, sliced
1 cup roasted sweet potatoes
½ cup almonds

For the dressing:
1 shallot bulb or ¼ of a small onion
3 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Pinch salt
Generous grinding fresh pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Make the dressing: Place all dressing ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.

Assemble the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl. Toss with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the dressing and serve immediately.


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