- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One of my good friends is a personal chef for a family of discriminating eaters. Whenever he and I get together, the conversation always turns to food.

During a recent coffee break, my pal couldn’t wait to tell me about a simple recipe for salmon cakes with remoulade sauce that he had served his patron. He had made the savory fish cakes as a main course several times, and on each occasion, they got great reviews, so I asked how they were prepared.

“Nothing to it,” he said. The secret lies in using freshly baked salmon, he explained.

He brushes oil on a pound of fillet, seasons it with salt and pepper, then pops it in the oven for about 20 minutes. The fish is flaked, then combined with sauteed leeks, red bell peppers and celery. Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and an egg are added along with seasonings of lime, parsley and cayenne pepper.

Finally, some panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs) are stirred in. This mixture is shaped into nice-sized patties, chilled, then sauteed for a few minutes until golden brown. The salmon cakes are topped with dollops of a tangy remoulade sauce prepared with just 2 ingredients - mayonnaise and Dijon mustard.

When I served these savory morsels to my husband, he swooned, saying in an almost Proustian rapture that they reminded him of his mother’s salmon croquettes. Next I offered this entree for lunch to several friends, all of whom loved the slightly crispy coating and beautifully balanced flavors.

Now I’m planning to make them the centerpiece of a winter dinner accompanied by blanched green beans and a vinaigrette-dressed salad. I can assemble the salmon cakes and the sauce early in the day, so at serving time, I’ll only need to do some quick sauteing.

A single recipe yields 4 servings of two ample-sized portions, but you can double the ingredients for a larger group. When I told my friend Matt how much everyone loved this dish, he smiled knowingly - he had been certain this recipe would be a crowd pleaser.

Matt’s salmon cakes with easy remoulade sauce

Makes 4 servings.

5 to 7 tablespoons canola oil, divided, plus extra for baking sheet

1 pound salmon fillet

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup finely chopped leeks, white and light green parts only

1/2 cup finely diced celery ( 1/4-inch dice)

1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper ( 1/4 inch dice)

1/3 cup mayonnaise (see note)

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons lime zest

2 teaspoons lime juice

5 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 large egg, beaten lightly

3/4 cup panko crumbs (available in most supermarkets)

EASY REMOULADE SAUCE:

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

3 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat foil lightly with oil. Place salmon, flesh side up, on sheet and brush top and sides with about 1 tablespoon oil. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Bake until flesh flakes easily and is opaque, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, discard skin and any dark flesh, then flake fish and place in a large bowl.

In a large skillet set over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil until hot. Add leeks, celery, and bell pepper, and saute until softened and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Cool slightly, then add mixture to bowl with salmon and toss to combine.

Add mayonnaise, mustard, lime zest and juice, 4 tablespoons of parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, cayenne pepper, egg, and panko crumbs to bowl with salmon. Stir gently to combine. Shape mixture into 8 cakes about 3 inches in diameter, place on a large plate, and refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes or longer. (Cakes can be prepared 6 hours ahead; keep covered and chilled.)

For sauce, whisk together mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (Sauce can be prepared 6 hours ahead.)

In a large, heavy skillet set over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons or more oil to cover bottom of pan. When hot, add enough cakes to fit in a single layer and saute until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat, adding more oil as needed, until all cakes are cooked. Serve salmon cakes topped with dollops of sauce and sprinkled with remaining parsley.

Note: Hellman’s light mayonnaise works well in this recipe.

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