After last week’s post, I had a fridge full of Perfect Homemade Mayonnaise, and the super-delicious variation, Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Rouille, demanded attention.
Of course, I could have just slathered it on a heap of grilled vegetables or corn on the cob, but there was also a ½ pound of cold-smoked salmon staring at me every time I opened the fridge door. I imagined the two would taste great together but nothing came immediately to mind.
And then, as I was flipping through Washington Food Artisans, by Leora Bloom, I spied a dish titled, Blackened Oysters with Chipotle Aioli & Pico de Gallo. The concept was solid: the freshest seafood simply sautéed, Cajun-style blackened coating, spicy aioli accompaniment, and crispy, sweet-tart topping. How good does that sound?
The next thing I knew, I had a batch of Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes shaped and setting up in the fridge. I sautéed a small nugget, adjusted the salt level, and then in a moment of inspiration, took a bite first of the seafood nugget and then of green apple. The rest is history.
Smoked Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli & Green Apple Pico De Gallo
Let’s face it, salmon is expensive. To host a salmon feed for six people will set you back a pretty penny. These salmon cakes deliver robust salmon flavor for a more modest cost per serving and the flavor combination is over-the-top delicious.
Purchasing Note For the fresh salmon, purchase about ¼ pound additional to allow for removal of skin and bones. You need ¾ pound usable salmon.
Technique Note To maximize salmon flavor and minimize fillers, the cold smoked salmon is pureed and used as the primary binder for the cakes. This is a great technique and is described in more detail in the post titled, Curried Seafood Cakes with Fresh Ginger Aioli.
Serving Note You can serve these as a hand-held appetizer or plated first course, depending on the size you make them. If you want to serve as a main course, serve two of the larger cakes for each diner.
12 ounces skinned, dark flesh removed, boned, fresh or flash frozen sockeye salmon, coarsely chopped
¼ pound cold-smoked (Nova-style) salmon, pureed in a processor
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup peeled, minced onion
1 clove peeled, finely minced garlic
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons minced chives
finely grated zest of 1 large lime
½ cup dry bread crumbs (Japanese Panko work well here)
¼ cup Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
Smokey Hot Cajun Spice (recipe below)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise
Green Apple Pico De Gallo (recipe below)
slices of fresh lime
- Clean and prepare fresh and cold-smoked salmon, as described above.
- In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and sauté the onions and garlic over low heat until barely tender but not browned. Remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, capers, chives, lime zest, bread crumbs, Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise, and salt until smooth. Add the onion mixture, fresh salmon, and smoked salmon. Mix thoroughly to combine.
- If you like, saute a small nugget of the mixture and taste for salt. Adjust the salt level accordingly.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm the mixture.
- Shape the seafood cakes into seven, 3-ounce disks or fourteen, 1½-ounce disks, each about ¾-inch thick. Lightly coat each side of each cake with Smokey Hot Cajun Spice and press lightly to adhere. Place cakes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to sauté and serve.
- In a large skillet, using medium heat, heat butter until a drop of water sizzles briskly when sprinkled into it.
- Put as many seafood cakes as will fit comfortably in the pan and sauté until nicely browned on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Do not overcook or cakes will be dry.
- Remove the cooked cakes to a paper towel-lined baking tray, keep warm in a 200º oven, and continue cooking the remainder of the cakes.
- To serve, remove the seafood cakes to individual plates or to a platter, garnish with Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise, Apple Pico De Gallo, and slices of fresh lime.
Makes 7-14 cakes, depending on size.
Smokey Hot Cajun Spice
Recipes for Cajun Spice are all over the place, but paprika is always the star, with black and white pepper, and chile pepper playing strong supporting roles. Most versions include onion and garlic powder, but I’m not partial to either. Much better to add fresh garlic and onion to the dish if and when it makes sense. Salt is another ingredient I leave out of the basic mix. It can always be added later to fit the needs of the dish. As to herbs, you’ll almost always see oregano and thyme, and sometimes a few others as well.
This blend has just the right amount of heat for many palates, but may be too hot for some. While not flaming hot, it does have a discernible kick. I also love the touch of smoke lent by the smoked paprika and smoked black peppercorns. But of course, it’s fine to use whatever paprika and peppercorns you have on hand.
Cajun Spice is often used as a rub for meats and fish. A dish with this treatment is typically labeled “blackened.” Popularized by Chef Paul Prudhomme, blackening infuses meat or fish with caramelized spices. The spice coating darkens as it caramelizes but should not be black. If it’s black, it’s burnt.
4 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika
2 teaspoons smoked black peppercorns
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (this amount is HOT; cut in half if you are not sure of your eaters)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Combine all ingredients in a small spice grinder (or coffee grinder reserved specifically for spices).
- Pulse to pulverize the spices.
- Store in an airtight container in a cool location.
Makes a scant ¼ cup.
Green Apple Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo (also called Salsa Fresca) is a fresh condiment consisting typically of chopped tomato, onion, chile, cilantro and lime juice. It is less liquid than salsa and often used as a crunchy topping. This version adds green apple and a touch of honey to compensate for the tartness.
½ cup peeled, seeded, chopped Granny Smith apple
½ cup peeled, chopped red onion
½ cup stemmed, ribbed, seeded diced red bell pepper
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, ribbed, seeded, and minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
wildflower honey, to taste
fine sea salt, to taste
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the apple, onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno chile, and lime juice.
- Drizzle on honey to taste and then salt to taste as well.
- Cover and refrigerate until needed.
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Copyright 2011 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.