Salmon Cakes with Crunchy Corn Relish
7.21.10 § 5 Comments
I think the thing I loved most about spending a semester in Paris was learning to linger over a meal. In France, you drink wine on your lunch break, which lasts two hours. Dinner often doesn’t start until 8 or 9, and it may not wrap up until midnight or later. Eating is the main event. This is the way I think life should be and often, when I have people over for dinner, this is how I frame my thinking. Unfortunately, my dinner guests don’t always know that.
When my friends April and Adam came over a few weeks ago, I failed to tell them that I was making one of the most delicious and time-intensive meals in my repertoire: salmon cakes with crunchy corn relish. Yes, if you’re well organized and think ahead, this is a quick-and-easy, throw-together meal. But I am not organized. And I don’t really think ahead. In other words, I knew it was going to take forever. Thankfully, these salmon cakes are awesome and although my friends may have been annoyed by the fact that they were at my apartment for two hours before dinner was served, I think they forgave me when they started to eat. I hope.
Cooking the salmon? One of the many, many things you can do ahead of time if you want to make salmon cakes. The recipe calls for 2 pounds cooked salmon, so if you have access to a grill, you can grill it. I don’t have a grill, but even if I did, I would probably still choose to poach the fish. It doesn’t take long, it’s easy, and it keeps the salmon really moist. If you need a quick tutorial, click over here to Serious Eats.
Making the crunchy corn relish a day or two ahead is another thing you can do to transform this into an effortless weeknight meal. It keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator and really tastes better after it sits for 24 hours and the flavors combine. It’s also good (or dangerous) to have in the fridge (this depends on your perspective), because you can eat it with tortilla chips, melt it into a quesadilla, spoon it over grilled chicken, or whatever else strikes your fancy. Just make sure you save plenty to eat with the salmon cakes!
Once you’ve made this a few times (believe me, you WILL make it more than once), you can kind of start eyeballing the amounts of things that go into the salmon mixture. If it gets too moist, you can always throw in some more breadcrumbs. This time, I had to use panko when I accidentally added too much mustard, but the panko added a little crunch, which was nice. You could probably even substitute all the breadcrumbs for panko and it would be beautiful. (If you don’t know already, panko are magic breadcrumbs from Japan that turn a lovely golden hue and gain amazing texture when used as breading for something that will be pan-fried. Case in point? Panko-crusted chicken with mustard-maple pan sauce, one of my ABSOLUTE favorites.)
When you begin frying these, it will take about 3 minutes per side. However, the cooking time will be a little shorter as you proceed and the oil gets hotter, so make sure you don’t walk away from the stove top for too long! This will be especially difficult if your apartment has no air conditioning and it is a billion degrees in the kitchen, but don’t give in to temptation!
At this point, if you failed to plan ahead, it will be 9pm and your guests will be starving and leering at you as you spoon the corn relish over the still-hot salmon cakes. (See my antsy friend Adam, above.) Tell them to hold their horses, because when they sit down to take a bite of this, it will all be worth it.
Salmon Cakes with Crunch Corn Relish
Adapted from The Foster’s Market Cookbook
Makes about twelve 2 1/2-inch cakes
2 lbs cooked salmon (poached or grilled), cooled to room temp
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 large eggs
1/2 red onion, minced
3 scallions, trimmed and minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
2 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Texas Pete)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup canola, safflower or peanut oil
1 recipe Crunchy Corn Relish (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, use a fork to break the cooked salmon into large chunks. Add 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, basil, mustard, eggs, onion, scallions, jalapeno, dill, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Stir until just mixed. Be careful not to overmix – the salmon should still be in bite-sized chunks, not small flakes.
Using your hands, form the mixture into twelve 2 1/2-inch or 3-inch cakes. Each cake should be about 1 1/2 inches thick. Coat both sides of the cake in the remaining bread crumbs and set aside.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When oil is hot (test the oil’s heat by placing the tip of a wooden spoon into the oil – if small bubbles form around the spoon, the oil is hot enough) then place 5 or 6 of the cakes in the skillet. Let cook for about 3 minutes per side before flipping over. Each side should be golden brown. Remove the cake from the skillet and place on a paper towel to drain. Transfer the cakes to a baking dish and place in the oven to stay warm while you finish the rest of the cakes.
Top with crunchy corn relish and serve.
Crunchy Corn Relish
makes 3 cups corn relish
Kernels from 4 ears fresh corn (2 cups)
1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp peeled, julienned fresh ginger
3 tbsp fresh thyme or 1 tbsp dried thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp peppercorns (pink if you can find them, use about 2 tsp black if you can’t find pink)
2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp sugar
2 bay leaves
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
7 scallions, trimmed and cut into thinly sliced rounds
6 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place corn, onion, wine, vinegar, ginger, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, coriander, sugar, and bay leaves in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir and cook about 10 minutes, until seasonings are incorporated. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the green bell pepper, red bell pepper, scallions, and basil. Stir to mix.
Add the corn mixture to the pepper mixture and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Either spoon over salmon cakes or refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use. Discard bay leaves before serving.