Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Salmon In A Whole New Light

Good evening everyone! Welcome back to Out Of The Culinary! We're going a bit off schedule tonight - I'm taking over the kitchen on back to back nights - I have a later shift at work tomorrow and in order to put the blog up in a timely manner, Maggie and I switched nights. So, for those of you tuning in for you 'Maggie's recipe Wednesday' fix - sorry to disappoint. Hopefully my recipe can fill the void until tomorrow.

Tonight I have a very interesting recipe to share with you. Much like yesterday's (delicious) sweet potato and chorizo soup - tonight's recipes combine two unique ingredients that you would not normally associate with each other.

I had been looking for a place to use salmon for some time now. A few recipes caught my eye, but nothing jumped out at me in particular. Last week, I finally spotted a salmon recipe that looked promising (somewhat complicated, but still promising) Tonight, I tackled that recipe.

The Recipe: Salmon Fish Cakes
Original Recipe Found In: Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals

What You'll Need:

(Side note: The recipe is constructed with the notion of freezing extras. If you only want enough for one meal - feeding a family of 2-4 - follow our amounts alongside the recommended amounts)

1 1/4 Lbs Potatoes (We lowered this to 1 Lb)
1 Lb Salmon Fillets - Skin on, scaled and bones removed (We opted for two 7 oz. fillets)
All Purpose Flour
1 Large Egg
1 Lemon
Olive Oil
Sea Salt & Black Pepper

The Recipe: Best Baby Potatoes
Original Recipe Found In: Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals

What You'll Need:

1 Lb Baby Potatoes
Fresh Mint (5 to 6 sprigs)
Unsalted Butter
1 Lemon

Begin by placing a large pot of water on high heat. While that's warming up, peel and slice your potatoes into evenly sized chunks. The smaller the better. Rub your salmon with olive oil (non skin side) and sprinkle on some salt & pepper.

Initially, I was hesitant about buying a salmon fillet with the skin still on it. However, after doing a lot of reading on cooking salmon - I noticed that nearly all the experts recommend you purchase and cook salmon with the skin still on at least one side. The reason behind this is twofold - first, when salmon cooks the juices tend to ooze out of the fish. Typically these juices are lost through the bottom of the fillet. When the skin is left on, it acts a barrier; which traps all of the natural juices in the fillet. Secondly, the skin acts as a wall from the heat of cooking. High heat can cause the fillet to cook unevenly or even dry out on the bottom. By leaving the skin on, you create a wall that disperses heat evenly across the fillet as well as protects the fillet from direct heat.

Skin on fillets, a little strange looking at first - but it's a savior of the flavor! 

Once your pot has come to a boil, add the potatoes and wait until the water returns to a boil. Next, place your two fillets (skin side down) in a large metal colander and cover the colander with aluminum foil. Place this colander over the pot of boiling water (be sure the colander simply rests above the pot and that the fish are not being 'dunked' in water - you don't want to boil your fillets!) Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

In the colander and ready to go 

After 10 or so minutes, your potatoes and salmon should be cooked. The salmon should be a light pink color (as shown below) and the potatoes should be fork tender. Remove the salmon fillets from the colander and set aside. It is likely that the skin will fall off the fillet right here, however, if it doesn't -remove the skin now. Don't worry about the fillets falling apart - you don't need them in one piece for the next steps anyway!

Drain the water from the potatoes and allow them to steam dry for a minute or two. Next, mash the potatoes with an electric mixer. Set the bowl aside for about five minutes to allow the potatoes to continue to cool.

While you're waiting for the potatoes to cool, now is a great time to begin zesting your lemon. By the time you have finished zesting the lemon - the potatoes should be cool enough to handle.

My favorite ingredient! 

Using a fork, break apart your salmon fillets. After cooking over the potatoes, they should break apart rather easily. Once they are good and chopped up - add the salmon to the bowl of mashed potatoes. Add your egg, lemon zest, a generous helping of parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper as well. Using a rubber spatula mix everything up very well.

Next, dust your work area with all purpose flour. Give your hands a generous coating as well. Break up the potato/salmon mixture into 5 to 7 separate balls. Give each ball a generous dusting of flour and work them into a patty shape - roughly 3/4 of an inch thick. Keep adding pinches of flour until the patties stop sticking to your hands. Don't be timid with the flour - the more you add, the easier they begin to take (and hold) their shape. If you go too light on the flour - the patties tend to fall apart.

Quick tip when making your patties - lean more towards smaller, thinner patties. When you're cooking them up later - the smaller patties will hold together better and crisp better than a larger patty.

4 of the 6 patties I made up - these were the 'too large' ones 

When you've finished rolling all of the balls into patties, place them on a plate (dusted with flour) and into the refrigerator for an hour. This will give them time to firm up.

While the patties firm up - turn your attention to the second recipe. (If you're not tackling the second dish - simply skip down the page to the next *** series)


I spotted this recipe late last week and decided that it would pair well with the salmon cakes. It's very simple and sported another unique flavor combination (mint and potatoes) that I was eager to try. In order to finish both recipes at around the same time - wait until 30 minutes have passed after placing the patties in the refrigerator to begin this dish.

Begin by placing a medium pot of water on high heat. Next start washing your baby potatoes - you don't have to peel them (actually it's recommended that you don't). Once your water is boiling add the potatoes. Next, chop the mint leaves into fine pieces. I tried using our OXO Smart Chopper didn't go well. It just 'smashed' the leaves rather than dicing them. It's supposed to be able to chop herbs - it doesn't seem to do that too well...

After 15 minutes your potatoes should be good and cooked. Give them a jab with a fork just to be sure. Drain the water from the potatoes and pour them into a large bowl. Add 3 pats of butter, the juice of one lemon and your chopped mint leaves to the bowl and give it a good shaking. Once all the potatoes are covered with the butter/lemon mixture and the mint has been evenly distributed you are ready to serve up and enjoy!

After an hour, your patties should have firmed up slightly. Place a large frying pan on medium heat and add two lugs of olive oil. Once the oil gets nice and hot (you should start to see little trails of 'smoke' from the oil) add you patties. If you made the patties small enough - they should cook in about 4 minutes (2 minutes per side). Larger patties will take more time - partly because of their size, mostly because they tend to break apart easily and are overall difficult to handle in the pan.

(If it sounds like I'm speaking from experience there...I am. The smaller patties I made up cooked very quickly - crisped nicely in the oil and gave me very little hassle. The larger patties crumbled - didn't crisp at all and caused a lot of extra headache.)

Once all your patties are cooked - all that is left is for you to enjoy!

The Results:

Once again, I combined ingredients that don't naturally seem to pair well together, and - once again, I was surprised with the result. This time around, potatoes and salmon worked very well together to make what essentially became a salmon burger. The cakes had a very nice lemon flavor that complimented the salmon well. The potatoes acted like a courier of the flavors - seamlessly blending the salmon and lemon.  For those that fear 'fishy' tasting fish - rest at ease. The lemon and parsley combination hides any hint at a 'fishy' flavor. Instead, you get a zesty little fish cake!  The only change I would make to the recipe on a second go-round would be to find some form of sauce to top the fish cakes with. I'm not sure what to use yet - lemon would be too much...I'm stuck on this one. Maybe a little research will turn up another good flavor pairing to really top off the recipe. Any suggestions?

The baby potatoes were delicious as well. Surprisingly the lemon flavor - not the mint - was the overriding taste. This is likely due to the scientific principles of cooking potatoes - mainly: once the potatoes are hot - their cell walls open up and absorb any and all flavors that they come in contact with. In this case - that flavor was lemon. Regardless, the resulting flavor combination was like fireworks in your mouth. First, the 'bang' of the lemon - followed by the ooh and ah of a nice (very subtle) minty aftertaste. All in all, a neat new way to cook potatoes!

Tonight's recipes were many things - great, flavorful combinations of unique ingredients - as well as slightly complicated (fish cakes) and very simple (baby potatoes) - but most importantly, they were both delicious! If you're up for the challenge, I would recommend your try the fish cake recipe - but be warned it is a little more difficult. I also highly recommend the baby potatoes. They are super easy and take very little time to prepare.

That's all we have for you tonight. Hopefully after reading these recipes you'll look at salmon in a whole new light (or at least see another way to prepare it!) Here's hoping you give these recipes a shot yourself. Maggie is in the kitchen tomorrow night - the blog should be up around the same time as it was tonight. Until then,


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