Recipe: salmon cakes
For those of you interested in the good eats around Boulder, I wrote a little article for The Guardian that was published over the weekend in their travel section. Of course, Boulder has WAY more than 10 great restaurants (and bakeries and coffeeshops), so this is really just a sampling of the awesomeness that is the Boulder Food Scene.
It’s been a girls’ weekend here at Butter Headquarters. Jeremy is in Hawai’i for a meeting, a trip I declined to join because even though Kaweah does not require high-maintenance care, she does require specific care and attention for her various medical issues. We took her to the vet a few weeks ago for a check up and her conditions (laryngeal collapse, kidney failure, canine degenerative myelopathy, deafness) continue to decline, but slowly.
those old legs have hiked many mountains
I asked Doc Clements how we would know when it is time, but I couldn’t finish my sentence as I looked at the ground and blinked away my tears. Quality of life, dignity, happiness, he answered. All the while, Kaweah was wagging her brains out because she absolutely loves being at the vet. He raised his eyebrows in a thoughtful manner as he handed Kaweah a treat, “When I first saw her symptoms a few years ago, I would have given her a few months. But it’s been a couple of years and she is doing very well, considering. So she just might surprise us yet.” He smiled and reached down to give her a pat and another treat.
she still keeps her girlish figure
Kaweah is my first dog. I mean MY first dog. I used to wonder when she was ever going to slow down because she was so full of energy and enthusiasm for over a decade. We just got used to her dragging us up and down the mountain for 18 miles and taking running leaps into icy alpine lakes and acting like every single person she met had just promised her a lifetime supply of raw beef. When it did happen, it was gradual and rather pleasant. She stopped pulling at the very end of her leash anytime we hit the trails. Kaweah began to behave herself after 10 minutes instead of 2 hours when guests came over to the house. Her après hike naps grew longer.
and kaweah knows how to stop and smell the
It has been bittersweet to witness Kaweah’s body finally succumb to her age. She’s more affectionate now. She can no longer outrun us. She doesn’t bark anymore when the foxes call at dusk because she can’t hear them. In the past year she has started hiding out in dark corners or under tables on occasion. Her walks are down to a quarter of a mile and her hind legs tend to slip and stumble and give out every now and again. But each morning, she’s a bouncy, waggy, happy dog who pounces on her plush toys in anticipation of breakfast. I toggle between being ready for that day when I have to let her go and sobbing at the thought of saying good-bye (like I am right now). I know some people regard aging pets as a burden, but in many ways I feel the same compassion for Kaweah in her old age as I did for my beloved grandmother in her last years. Be kind. Be patient. Be understanding. Be loving. Be caring. Spoil her.
you will always be my baby puppy
Kaweah may or may not have gotten a few chunks of salmon while I was preparing this recipe. It’s getting hard to say no to that furry little face, especially when she tilts it to the side. When my parents came out to visit us in Crested Butte, Dad kept going over the menu for their stay as if these were critical military strategies. He told me he would make salmon cakes, freeze them, and cook them for us the first night. I heard so much about these salmon cakes that I almost didn’t want to eat them… but I did, and I really liked them.
removing the skin from the filet
salmon, onion, eggs, lemon, mayonnaise, salt, flour, bread crumbs, parsley (not pictured: panko)
chop the salmon
everything prepped to make the patties
Salmon is in season now, so I picked up some beautiful wild Coho salmon from my fish monger at Whole Foods. If you’re wondering whether you should use fresh salmon or canned salmon, I’m here to tell you to go for fresh. If you don’t think there is a difference between the two, I don’t think we can be friends anymore. When preparing the salmon filet, you can skin it yourself or ask your fish monger to do it. You should also run your fingertips along the surface of the filet to feel for any bones. The easiest way to take those suckers out is to use a pair of clean needle-nose pliers to clamp down on the end of the bone and pull it out. These should parallel the length of the fish.
combine the salmon, salt, lemon juice, parsley, mayonnaise, onion, and bread crumbs in a bowl
mix it together
scoop some up to form patties
make them big (here) or little (for appetizers)
I opted to make large salmon cakes to be served in sandwiches or solo, but these would be absolutely delightful as small bites for a party too. Now, the salmon mixture lacks the cohesion of ground beef or ground pork. The trick is to gently form a patty (the more you press, the more it falls apart – zen, huh?) and carefully set it down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The patties spend a little time in the freezer to firm up. The recipe calls for 15 minutes, but I gave mine 30. While the patties chill out, you can ready the breading station: a shallow bowl of flour, a bowl of beaten eggs, and a shallow bowl of panko.
ready to dip
coat the patties in flour then dip in egg
apply a final coat of panko
at this stage, you can either fry the salmon cakes or freeze them for later
When all of the salmon cakes are done, it’s time to fry them up. I didn’t use the entire 1/2 cup of oil called for in the recipe. I just spread enough to generously coat the bottom of the sauté pan. When the oil is ready, add the cakes. They cook quickly and the bottoms should be golden in 2-3 minutes. Flip and fry the other side until golden (2-3 minutes). This amount of frying time cooks the cakes through. When the salmon cakes are frying, you can quickly mix the dill-yogurt sauce.
flipping the cakes over as the bottoms brown
salt, lemon, dill, plain greek yogurt (not pictured: dill pickle relish)
stir it all together
These salmon cakes are tender inside, crisp and crunchy on the outside. The flavors are nicely balanced and are fantastic on their own, in a salad, or popped into a sandwich. I only made a single batch, but next time I will definitely make a double batch and freeze half as this recipe is a great make-ahead meal for weeknight. Definitely take advantage while the wild salmon are in season!
a nice lunch
chock full of wonderful coho salmon
from this recipe
1 1/4 lbs. fresh salmon filet
1/3 cup white or sourdough bread, crusts removed, chopped or food processed into coarse crumbs
2 tbsps mayonnaise
1/4 cup yellow onion, grated
2 tbsps fresh Italian parsley, chopped
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsps lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying (I used less)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tsps fresh dill, chopped
2 tsps lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1/4 tsp salt to taste
2-3 tbsps dill pickle relish or sweet pickle relish (optional)
Make the dill-yogurt sauce: Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir until mixed. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Make the salmon cakes: Remove the skin from the salmon filet. You can have your fish monger do this, or you can do it yourself. It’s quite easy and Becky Selengut has an excellent video demonstrating her technique for skinning a fish filet. Chop the salmon into 1/4 to 1/3-inch pieces. Mix the salmon, white bread crumbs (not the panko), mayonnaise, onion, parsley, salt, and lemon juice together in a medium bowl. You can make about six 3-inch diameter patties about 3/4-inch wide for a main course or make several smaller patties for appetizer bites. If making larger patties, be careful and patient when handling the patties as they easily come apart. Place the patties on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pop them in the freezer for 15 minutes or more (I went 30 minutes).
When the cakes are ready to come out of the freezer, place the flour in a large shallow bowl, the beaten eggs in a medium bowl, and the panko in another large shallow bowl. Dip each cake into the flour, making sure to coat the entire cake and gently tapping off any excess. Then dip the floured cake into the egg and coat the entire thing. Pockets of flour will peel off – don’t worry – just dip your hand in the egg and “patch” the flour spot on the cake. Finally, coat the cake in the panko crumbs, making sure to cover as much of the cake as possible. Set the cakes on a plate, or if you are freezing for later, set the cakes on a baking sheet and freeze until hard then package in an airtight container (to cook, just double the cooking time if frozen). Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot (drop a panko crumb into the oil – if it sizzles, the oil is ready), carefully add the salmon cakes to the pan. The bottoms should become golden after 2-3 minutes. Gently flip the cakes over and fry for another 2-3 minutes until the remaining side is a dark golden color. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with dill-yogurt sauce on the side. These can be served as appetizers (individual salmon cakes), on a salad, in a sandwich, or as a main course. Makes 6 salmon cakes or 12-18 mini salmon cakes.
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