the weather life gets the better of you and before you realize it, that lovely thick salmon fillet you were planning on turning into 石狩鍋 Ishikari nabe (a hearty salmon stew with potatoes and a delicious miso-dashi-onion broth) gets magically reborn into crispety, crunchety panko-breaded salmon cakes nestled in bready, slightly sweet Hoagie buns and slathered with a spicy, tangy harissa rémoulade. Thank you Heat Wave, and here I was thinking that you were about to overstay your welcome 😉 Anyway, that’s my excuse for mincing a gorgeous succulent fillet into moist-on-the-inside-yet-crispy-on-the-outside salmon cakes. I like to use panko when breading cuz it really stays crispier than traditional breadcrumbs but truthfully, frying cardboard anything makes it delicious. That’s also why I prefer potato starch to corn starch or flour as it absorbs less oil leaving your fried goods irresistibly crunchy. The egg and aïoli act as binders to keep your cakes from falling apart in the skillet and I find that the tiny tablespoon of aïoli also gives you a moist cake with an amazing mouth feel. Do make the rémoulade if you can, it literally takes less than 5 minutes to mix together and adds a piquant, spicy kick to your sammie. If rémoulade is absolutely against your philosophical beliefs, by all means at least dress your greens with some vinaigrette or slather your bread with the condiment of your choice cuz that crispy breading needs a little slurpaliciousness to wash it down or if you decide to go the appetizer route, you can’t go wrong with a tangy, spicy dipping sauce, right? And while I’m all about healthy eating, I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t the most salubrious way I could prepare salmon but I’m blaming the weather. Yup.
What’s the secret(s) to crispety fried goods?
Doing whatever it takes to keep your food from absorbing oil:
1) Potato starch is much finer than cornstarch or flour and absorbs less oil. You can usually find it in the Japanese section of Asian markets or the baking section of well-stocked Western markets.
2) Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) absorb less oil (not sure how but would love to find out if somebody out there knows why) than traditional breadcrumbs and since they’re literally made by electrifying dough, you get a spiky crumb with a lot more surface area that feels crunchier to your mouth.
3) Make sure that your oil temperature doesn’t drop by crowding the pan cuz the lower the temp, the longer it takes your food to cook, the longer it sits in the oil and soaks up grease 😦
1/4 c aïoli (I used Lemonaise)
2 tsp Harissa chili paste, substitute a non-acidic hot sauce like sriracha or Crystal if you can’t find harissa
2 tsp tomato paste
2 tbsp minced cornichons (~3-4)
2 tsp capers
1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside in refrigerator till ready to use.
1 lb salmon fillet, skin and pin bones removed (I used Chinook)
1/2 shallot, minced
1 tsp (2 cloves) crushed garlic
1 tbsp aïoli
1 + 1 egg
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 + 1 1/2 c panko breadcrumbs **look for gluten-free panko like Kinnikinnick Gluten-Free Panko Style Bread Crumbs if cooking gluten-free
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/3 c 片栗粉 katakuriko (potato starch) or cornstarch (I used potato starch)
Mince the salmon (I know, it seems like sacrilege but those crispety cakes are sooo worth it). Place salmon in a mixing bowl. Add shallot, garlic, aïoli, 1 egg, parsley, 1/2 c panko, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and thyme then mix together till just combined. Wet hands (this will make the salmon cakes stick to your hands less) and take ~1/4-1/3 c of salmon mixture then form into cakes and place on a clean dry plate or cutting board. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to let it set otherwise the cakes will be too soft and turn into mush while you’re trying to bread them 😦 This step also dries out the surface of the cakes a bit so that they’re not too wet. If you’ve ever had mushy breading that falls off after frying that’s cuz whatever you’re breading had too much moisture and when the breading absorbs that moisture it doesn’t adhere well to your food.
Place potato starch, remaining egg, and remaining 1 1/2 c panko into individual shallow bowls or rimmed plates. Using a fork, beat egg till egg yolk and white are uniform. Using your left hand place a salmon cake in the potato starch and coat all sides. Place cake in the egg wash and using your right hand flip it and coat all sides with egg wash. Place cake in panko and using your left hand coat all sides with the panko. (The “dry hand”/”wet hand” method will keep you from breading your hands too 🙂 ) Set aside on a clean, dry plate or cutting board and repeat with remaining cakes. Return cakes to refrigerator while heating oil.**
In a deep skillet (I use my cast iron skillet) add enough oil to cover the bottom by at least 1/2 inch. Heat on med-hi heat till a 1-inch piece of bread turns golden-brown in 60 seconds or once a kernel of popcorn placed in the oil at the start of heating pops (these are both a good approximation of ~360-375F). Make sure not to crowd the pan and fry till the crust submerged in the oil is golden-brown. Flip and fry the other side till golden brown then place on a cooling rack covered with paper towels. You may have to add additional frying oil as you go so just make sure to wait 30-45 seconds after adding new oil to allow it to heat up before frying your cakes. Makes nine 3 x 1-inch thick cakes. I like to put 2 cakes with greens and rémoulade in each sandwich and to preserve the crunchiness of the breading by slathering it on the bread and on the greens instead of directly onto the salmon cakes. Thank you Heat Wave and just to show my appreciation, let me hold the door for you 😉
**If you’re making a lot for brunch or entertaining, you can cover the cakes at this point and then fry them later but I wouldn’t make them more than a day before you want to eat them. You could also individually freeze them and then fry them at a lower temp ~325-350F to make sure that the insides cook at the same rate as the outside browns. Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers these reheat well in the toaster oven too 🙂