Savage recipes: salmon cakes

Salmon cakes are like pub food, easy to eat, sustaining, for anytime. Everyone loves them. Get Pam’s Mango-plum chutney to go with them, and a home-brew honey ale. Photo courtesy of Chris MacDonald.

Salmon cakes

If you’re lucky enough to have a fisherman in the family, you know the wild fish you eat are as clean as can be. You need a freezer, of course, and you need to be able to use large quantities of fish — fishers often bring back 6-20 pounders. I started with a gifted (okay, I begged) filet about 18 inches long and 6 across — almost four pounds of salmon.

This recipe does take some time. I steamed the salmon the night before, made the patties in the morning, and breaded and fried them just before dinner. It’s a great team effort — one person does the salmon, the other the potatoes and add-ins, and both shape the salmon cakes, so there’s someone there to exclaim loudly to about how yucky it all is. Yup, it’s a bit of trouble. But no-one promised a rose garden, so suck it up buttercup, as one of my sons-in-law has been known to say, and make the most of the catch.

It helps to have two or three really large bowls to make this: one for the salmon, one for the potato mixture, and later, one for the eggs. You also need a whisk. A small blender or food processor helps cut the time for chopping the herbs. This is a delightfully messy recipe—you really feel you’re doing something. If you’re squeamish, wear surgical gloves. You can buy them at the drugstore.

Eat these on a few greens, with a Greek salad of cucumber, tomato, feta and a little red onion, and a really good loaf of bread. Or as salmon burgers, with dill mayonnaise and lettuce, and maybe add yam fries.

A good beer goes down well with these — preferably honey ale, or a darker brew, even stout. The flavour is robust. Wine: salmon can take a good red—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, any of the new Okanagan blends. My favorite would be a Tuscan red, Montepulciano for instance. This is a casual sort of meal, though, so don’t worry about one that’s a bit rough on the edges. Another choice if you drink nothing but white wine would be Sauvignon Blanc, or one of the more robust off-dry German wines that we don’t see as often as we used to.

Salmon cakes

This recipe makes 36 patties, and uses 3 lbs. cooked and flaked salmon. Canned is okay. You can cut the recipe by three for smaller amounts, but it’s useful to make a batch and freeze some for a quick supper later on.

3 lbs salmon
4 large russet potatoes

1 cup heavy cream

3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped dill

1 small bunch (8) green onions, washed and chopped

1 tsp salt
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp honey, maple syrup or brown rice syrup

1tsp chili powder
2 lemons, juiced
2 cups panko crumbs
4 eggs, beaten

butter and oil for frying the cakes — about 6-8 tbsp.

Cut the salmon into manageable pieces and steam in the oven set to 350F for 30 minutes. Use a baking rack set inside a rectangular pan, and put 1 inch of water in the bottom. Remove from oven and cool.
Remove all the skin, fat  and bones from the salmon and flake into small pieces. Add the juice of two lemons and the salt.
At the same time, peel and cut into eight pieces four large russet potatoes, then put them into a large pot of boiling water and cook for about 15 minutes, until very tender. Drain and mash.
Put into a small food processor the cream, herbs, onions, chili powder, tomato paste and honey. Churn until all is well blended and the onions and herbs very finely chopped.

Add the potatoes and the cream mixture to the salmon and blend well with the back of a large wooden spoon. (This is where you need a huge bowl.) At first it seems that you’ll never be able to mix it, but suddenly it gets smooth and malleable.
Shape salmon cakes by scooping up a wad of salmon dough the size of a large egg, then carefully make a ball and flatten it. Round the edges. Put cakes on waxed paper on a cookie sheet and store in the fridge until cook time.
Heat butter and oil in a large shallow pan.
Beat the eggs and put panko crumbs in a shallow dish.
Dip each cake in the egg, then coat with panko crumbs and put into the frying pan. Don’t overcrowd. You may have to cook these in batches and keep them warm in the oven. If your guests come in and start sampling, you won’t have many left for dinner.