September 28, 2022
In the United States, salmon cakes originated in the South somewhere in the mid 1800s and were actually called salmon croquettes. They were made of canned salmon and saltine crackers and a favorite meal of one of my favorite authors, William Faulkner.
Nowadays, as I understand it, the terms cake and croquette (at least in the case of salmon) are interchangeable.
But regardless of what you want to call this recipe, it'll make good use of any salmon sitting in your freezer, or any fresh catch you might bring to hand during the fall run. The smoky flavor here is something special and nearly a prerequisite here in Kansas, home of the best smoked barbecue.
Ahead of smoking, you'll want to skin the fish so both salt and smoke can penetrate deeper. When salting, do so liberally, but pay attention to instructions below on how long to let it sit. Make sure to rinse thoroughly under cold water after the designated time (if you fail to do so, you'll have very salty-tasting fish). Pat dry and let sit in the fridge with ample airflow overnight to further dry and form a pellicle on the flesh to which smoke can adhere.
Serves: 6; makes approximately 10 four-ounce cakes.
- 20 ounces skinless salmon, salted, rinsed, and smoked
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced and minced in food processor
- 2 teaspoons finely minced (in food processor) fresh garlic
- Egg white from 2 eggs (no yolk)
- 3 ounces non-pareil capers
- 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish (not the creamy horderadish)
- 1 teaspoon Frank’s RedHot Original hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1-1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
- Peanut oil for frying
More from Jack Hennessy: Turn Freezer-Burnt Venison Into Incredible Jerky
Paprika Crema Ingredients:
- 2/3 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoons finely minced chives
- 1/2 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
- Sliced scallions for garnish (optional)
- The night prior to smoking, remove skin from salmon and liberally salt both sides with kosher salt. If fillets are thinner than an inch, let them sit in fridge for half hour. If as thick or thicker than an inch, let them sit in the fridge for an hour. Remove and THOROUGHLY rinse under cold water. Pat dry and place back in the fridge with ample airflow around both sides (resting fillets on a stainless-steel mesh grate atop a bowl or curved plate may help here). Let fillets dry in the fridge overnight (uncovered).
- To smoke salmon, use favorite smoking wood or pellets (I prefer mesquite) and smoke at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-1/2 hours if fillets are thinner than an inch. If as thick or thicker than an inch, smoke for 4 hours.
- To make cakes, in a food processor add diced yellow onion, fresh garlic (likely two cloves), and non-pareil capers. Pulse a handful of times. Do not purée, as some texture should remain in mixture. (It shouldn't resemble paste). Shred smoke salmon and add to food processor with current contents. Pulse a few more times (again, do not purée). Add all to a large mixing bowl.
- To the mixing bowl, add the following: horseradish, hot sauce, mayo, honey, Dijon mustard, ground black pepper, egg white from two eggs (no yellow yolk), and panko break crumbs. Mix thoroughly then allow to rest for 5 minutes until forming into patties. If mixture seems too moist after sitting for 5 minutes, add another half cup of panko bread crumbs and mix in.
- To make patties, create four-ounce balls. Use pre-cut hamburger patty paper or cut aluminum foil into 6-inch-by-6-inch squares. Add salmon balls to squares and press down with nondominant hand. Spin mushed ball on paper and while doing so, use your dominant hand to form curve of cake patty. Your nondominant hand should turn paper or foil and apply light downward pressure in the center toward your curved dominant hand. You dominant hand, the shape of a C, is almost lightly karate chopping the edges of the cake. The goal is no cracks in the patty cake. Cook immediately or wrap in plastic to save for the next day or two (you really don't want to wait longer than that to cook).
- To make crema, add all crema ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Add to a wider-nozzle squeeze bottle if you have it.
- To cook cakes, heat peanut oil to 350 degrees and fry both sides of each cake until slightly brown. Remove and allow grease to drain on a grate or paper napkin then serve immediately and top with paprika crema and sliced scallions.
Reach out to Jack Hennessy on Instagram (@WildGameJack) with any questions or comments.