|Salmon Cakes – recipe in post|
During the week, when I’m not cooking for the blog (as in, measuring everything really precisely), I like to surprise The Fiancé by throwing together something tasty, ready for him when he walks through the door. Something new and exciting, that I know he’ll love. Some nights it’s butter-basted sea scallops with a white wine pan sauce (one of his favorites), sometimes it’s crispy skinned salmon with orange and sesame, sometimes it’s a rustic pasta dish with bacon and olives…
These are some of our favorite meals. I adore throwing things together on the fly, without worrying about keeping track of how long I seer something on each side or how much seasoning I use. Some of my best dishes are a result of free-form cooking like this. Without a recipe, without a care… there’s nothing quite as satisfying as being creative in the kitchen.
I made these salmon cakes a few weeks ago, and for days afterward The Fiancé talked about them. He told everyone about how delicious they were, how fresh and flavorful, how he couldn’t wait for me to make them again (hint hint, nudge nudge). I knew I had to recreate them, but the pressure was building for me to remember exactly what I had done and replicate it. Thankfully, the second time around was just as good as the first… and this time, I wrote down the recipe!
It’s FAK Friday (Feeding my Appetite for Knowledge) – this week my studies have been focused on things outside of the kitchen, but I couldn’t let today go by without including something related to food science. Since this dish includes a favorite vinaigrette of mine, I thought I’d talk about what an Emulsion is! You’ll find the recipe for my salmon cakes and the dressing at the bottom of the post.
Oil in Water
An Emulsion is a combination of two liquids that wouldn’t normally combine (such as water and oil). Liquids like these that don’t want to mingle are called ‘immiscible’ (meaning they won’t mix), and no matter how much you may try to mix them together they will always separate from one another. Think of a simple oil and vinegar dressing – if the two liquids are stirred or shaken, they create a temporary emulsion, where one liquid forms small bubbles within the other, but they quickly settle back into two separate layers. To make a permanent emulsion, a third ingredient needs to be added. This is called an emulsifier, and acts as a stabilizer between the two liquids to bring them together and help them play nice.
Emulsions are everywhere in day to day life, from toothpaste, moisturizers, ointments, and creams to pesticides and even asphalt and driveway sealant. In the culinary world, some of the most common emulsions are milk (an emulsion of butterfat and water), mayonnaise (egg yolks, oil and vinegar) and salad dressings.
There are plenty of emulsifiers out there, including chemical emulsifiers (like cream of tartar, used to stabilize egg white foams), proteins (like those in milk), and lecithin (lecithin is found in egg yolks, and also soy). Starches, gums, agar agar, pectin, and gelatin can all be emulsifiers as well. In my example of salad dressings, some of the most common emulsifiers are egg yolks (as in mayonnaise) and mustard (mustard seed contains natural emulsifying chemicals). Sugar can also help create a stable emulsion. Most dressings with these ingredients still need to be shaken, but they will not settle out as quickly or completely as dressings without an emulsifier.
In my vinaigrette recipe below, I use a little mustard to help keep the dressing from separating, along with some honey to thicken it. Of course, these ingredients have another, more important purpose as well… and that’s flavor!
Recipe Notes: The mustard in this recipe is very mild – The Fiancé isn’t a big fan of mustard, and absolutely loved the flavor in this. If you want it a little stronger, feel free to increase the amount to your liking.
For the vinaigrette, I used three different types of vinegar… what can I say, I have a lot of vinegar hanging out in my cupboards! I love the balance they create, but if you don’t have all three you can omit the raspberry, or substitute other flavored vinegars. Go ahead and play around with the recipe to make it just right for you.
Salmon Cakes with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
Makes 6-7 small patties (2 patties per serving)
1 lb. salmon, skin removed
1 cup water
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
1 1/3rd cup panko breadcrumbs*
1 1/2 TBSP all purpose flour
1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
1 small shallot, chopped fine
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp. whole fennel seeds, chopped
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp. sea salt)
1/8th tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 TBSP dijon mustard
Olive oil, for the pan
For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
1/8th cup tarragon vinegar
1 TBSP raspberry vinegar (see notes)
2-3 TBSP honey, to taste
1-2 TBSP dijon mustard, to taste
1/2-3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
Fresh sliced avocado
Any other veggies you like
*I used panko breadcrumbs because they were what I had on hand, but other breadcrumbs would probably work just as well.
1. Poach the salmon: In a shallow skillet or saute pan, bring the water and juice of a lemon to a boil. Once boiling, add your salmon and cover (if your pan doesn’t have a lid, use a sheet of parchment or aluminum foil). Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 6-8 minutes or until the salmon is opaque and flaky all the way through. The time will vary depending on how thick your fish is, so check the doneness by flaking the salmon with a fork. Remove the salmon from the cooking liquid and set aside to cool a little while you prep the rest of your ingredients.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, flour, bell pepper, shallot, parsley, chopped fennel seeds, lemon zest, salt, and cayenne.
3. Add the salmon to the bowl and break it apart with a fork. Add the dijon mustard and egg, and stir everything to combine.
4. Form the mixture into patties. Take a handful and squeeze into a ball, then shape it into a disc – the patty should just barely hold together. If the mixture is too flaky to hold together, add another 1/2 TBSP flour. I like to make small patties, about 1/2 cup each, and make two per serving.
5. Heat a skillet over medium-high with 1-2 TBSP olive oil. Seer the patties for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip, and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the other side. Serve over mixed greens with slices of avocado and a drizzle of vinaigrette.
6. For the vinaigrette: whisk together all the vinegars, honey, and mustard. While whisking, drizzle in the olive oil. Stir or shake before serving.
Uncooked patties can be wrapped individually in plastic, sealed in a zip-top bag, and frozen for up a a few months. To cook, thaw in the fridge the night before, or unwrap and thaw in the microwave at 50% power for 1-2 minutes, then cook as directed. I will definitely be making a double batch of these next time, and storing them for quick week-night meals!
The vinaigrette can be kept in a jar or other airtight container in the fridge for up a few weeks, and should be shaken well before each use. It’s perfect for these salmon cakes, but is delicious on its own with any salad!