Occasionally, I receive a gift in the form of a new recipe to test via text message from my friend Beau Schooler, chef at At Bocca al-Lupo in Juneau. (You may remember her fabulous sourdough recipe.) We have a text thread that has been going on for years on Alaska-style cooking and lately we’ve been corresponding on salmon. I wanted to come up with something new that worked well for frozen fish. He sent me this fishcake recipe that uses a combination of salmon filling or frozen fish and smoked fish. Dip them in “ranchovy”, a wonderful condiment he invented, and they are tasty, funky, smoky, perfect.
Depending on what you have in terms of fish, you can tweak it a bit. You can use half as much smoked fish and increase the fresh, if you run out. I probably wouldn’t recommend using more than half the smoked fish. Also consider salt. The saltiness and texture of smoked salmon vary widely, depending. You can add a few splashes of fish sauce, “if you’re feeling lively,” Beau says, especially if you’re reducing the smoked fish. My smoked salmon was salty so I withheld any added salt or fish sauce and mine is rather dry so I also added a bit more mayonnaise.
The best part about these cakes is that you can make them a few days ahead, refrigerate them, and fry them right before dinner. They can also be frozen, but be sure to thaw them completely before frying. And, if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to make the sauce, you can do like me sometimes and mix a little wasabi or sriracha with mayonnaise. It’s not ranchois, but it works in a pinch.
Beau’s Smoked Salmon Cakes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 medium onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1/2 bell pepper, any color, seeded, ribs removed, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
Pinch of salt
1/2 pound (about a fillet) raw salmon or salmon trimmings, skinless, minced
1/2 pound smoked salmon, crumbled
3/4 cup mayonnaise (Best Foods or Kewpie recommended)
3 cups panko, halved
The zest of a lemon
Lemon slices to serve
On the stove, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Stir frequently, sweating vegetables until tender and onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Don’t let the vegetables brown. Remove from fire. In a large bowl, combine the smoked and fresh salmon, zest, mayonnaise, 1 1/2 cups panko and vegetables. The mixture should hold together if you shape it. Beau says, “If it seems loose or wet, add a little more panko to tighten it up, if it seems too dry, give it another tablespoon of mayonnaise.”
Divide salmon mixture to form eight 4-ounce patties for large cakes or sixteen 2-ounce patties for appetizer-sized cakes. They should be about an inch thick. Pour the rest of the panko on a plate and roll each fish cake in it to coat them well. On the stovetop, cover the bottom of a large skillet with oil. Fry the cakes over medium heat in batches, 3 minutes per side, adjusting the heat if they become too brown. Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients. Serve with fishcakes or whatever you usually serve with a ranch.