Thursday 17 October 2013

Salmon and Potato Cakes

Here on Vancouver Island, autumn is salmon time.  Salmon return to our rivers to spawn, and school in the salt water near river mouths waiting for the fall rains to raise the water levels enough so they can swim upstream.  Their numbers draw all sorts of fishers:  Whales, seals, and sea lions avail themselves of the feast, eagles and bears visit both shore and river, and of course humans fish for them too.

We have a friend who is an enthusiastic fisherman and spin casts for salmon each fall.  This year pink salmon were particularly abundant and he caught his limit every day, kindly sharing the bounty with us.  We now have some beautiful fish, each around four pounds, wrapped and stored away in our freezer.

A four pound salmon will provide my husband and I with several meals.  I recently baked one in a parchment packet with onions, dill, and lemon juice.  We enjoyed the baked salmon for supper, I used the fins, tail, bones, skin, and head to make a rich fish stock, and flaked the rest of the fish to make salmon and potato cakes.

Salmon and potato cakes can be made either with freshly cooked fish or with canned, making them a practical option for most everyone, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you.  They are a tasty, frugal meal, and they freeze well too.

To make salmon and potato cakes, you'll need:

  • finely diced onion and celery (I used about 3/4 cup of each.  You can use whatever quantities you prefer, and add other vegetables too.  I often mix in some finely diced bell pepper, shredded carrot, or shredded zucchini.)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salmon, either fresh or canned.  (I used about 1 pound of leftover baked salmon.  Two tins of canned salmon, or one pint of home canned, broken up into large flakes, would yield an equivalent amount.)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Finely chopped fresh dill (I used about 2 teaspoons of dill but my fish had already been cooked with lemon and dill and carried those flavours over from the cooking process.  If you're using canned salmon, you'll want to adjust the amount of dill upwards to a Tablespoon or more, and to mix in some grated lemon zest too.  Other herbs like parsley and chives also make good additions.  It's all about what you like, and have on hand.)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Leftover mashed potatoes
  • Bacon fat to mix with the oil when frying your salmon cakes (Optional, but we like the flavour it adds.)

Begin by sauteing the onion and celery (and other vegetables if you're using them) in olive oil over medium heat.  You want to sweat the vegetables; cooking them until they're tender but haven't taken on any colour.

Allow the vegetables to cool to room temperature.

When the vegetables have cooled, transfer them to a bowl and add in the salmon, mustard, dill (and lemon zest and other herbs if you're using them), and some salt and pepper.  Mix them gently to combine without breaking up the salmon too much.

Add in just enough potato to bind the ingredients together.  I used about a cup.

Form the salmon mixture into patties and put them on a baking sheet.  

Refrigerate them for at least two hours before cooking, or freeze them and then transfer them to a ziploc bag.

If you're cooking your freshly made salmon cakes in a frying pan as I did, fry them either in a neutral flavoured oil with a high smoking point (sunflower or peanut oil work well), or in a combination of bacon fat and oil melted together.  

Put about 1/4 inch of oil in the bottom of the pan and preheat the oil before adding in the salmon cakes.

Salmon cakes are fragile.  To keep them from breaking up, you'll need to let them get quite dark.  They should form a good crust on both sides.

If you prefer to deep fry your salmon cakes, you'll need to bread them first.  I coat mine in flour, then in egg, then in seasoned bread crumbs and fry them at 350F until they're golden brown.

If you prefer to cook your salmon cakes in the oven, you can cook them either plain or breaded.  Line your baking sheet with parchment and bake your refrigerated salmon cakes at 350F just until heated through.

If you're reheating your salmon cakes from frozen, baking works best.  Put them on a parchment lined baking sheet and reheat them from frozen (don't thaw them) at 400F for about 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking time.

Salmon cakes pair well with herb infused cream sauce, with tartar sauce, or with seafood cocktail sauce.  Used instead of a traditional English muffin, they make an interesting and flavourful foundation for Eggs Benedict.