Recipe: Salmon Cakes with Creamy Garlic Sauce

Recipe: Salmon Cakes with Creamy Garlic Sauce

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Emma Christensen
Oct 2, 2015
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Fish cakes are quite possibly the best way to give leftover salmon a second lease on life. If you have a few fillets from your last cookout, or from cooking a big batch in the slow cooker, these herby, garlicky cakes need to be in your meal plan. And if you don't have leftover fish, then canned salmon is a good pantry staple and means these fish cakes are never more than a few minutes away.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Just after mixing, these fish cakes can feel pretty loose and mushy; give them a 15-minute chill in the fridge and they'll firm right up. This makes them easier to coat with panko and easier to flip on the griddle. If you don't have time to let them chill — if you have a few hungry mouths at your table who need feeding, fast — you can skip this step. Just take extra care with flipping them.

I usually serve these salmon cakes over a simple side salad or some grilled vegetables. Shape them into slightly larger patties, and you have some great stovetop salmon burgers ready to go. These cakes are also surprisingly good the next day — almost like tunafish salad patties. Stick them in a pita pocket with some crunchy lettuce and lunch is taken care of.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Salmon Cakes with Creamy Garlic Sauce

Serves 2 to 4 (makes 6 to 8 patties)

For the salmon cakes:
2 cups cooked salmon, flaked (from 1 pound raw salmon, or 2 6-ounce cans salmon)
1/2 cup bread crumbs or Panko, plus more to coat the patties
1 medium shallot, minced (about 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons minced herbs, like dill, fennel fronds, or parsley
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg
2 teaspoons Dijon or yellow mustard

For the creamy garlic sauce:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 garlic cloves, shaved on a microplane, pressed through a garlic press, or very finely minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heavy cream, to thin, if needed
Salt, to taste

Combine the flaked salmon, bread crumbs, shallot, and herbs in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk together the mayonnaise, egg, and mustard in a small bowl, then pour on top of the salmon. Stir until everything is evenly mixed.

Divide and shape the salmon into six medium or eight small patties. Place them on a plate, spaced a little apart. At this point, the patties will feel very loose and wet; transfer the patties to the refrigerator and chill for at least 15 minutes (or cover and refrigerate for up to a day). This help firm up the fish cakes and makes them easier to fry.

While the fish cakes chill, whisk together the mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice. Add heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time, to thin it to a pourable consistency if needed. Cover and set aside for at least 15 minutes, or refrigerate for up to a week. The flavors will taste very harsh at first, but will mellow with time. Taste the mayo after it's had time to mellow a bit and add salt if needed.

When ready to cook the salmon cakes, film a large skillet with olive oil and set over medium-high heat. While the skillet heats, place a few spoonfuls of bread crumbs on a plate or bowl and dip each patty to coat with crumbs. When the pan is hot enough that a flick of water evaporates right away, place the salmon cakes in the pan spaced a little apart.

Fry the salmon cakes for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden on the underside. Flip and fry for another 3 to 5 minutes. If they seem to be frying too quickly or slowly, adjust the heat.

Transfer the patties to serving plates, top with some of the creamy garlic sauce, and serve while still hot. These salmon cakes are great with a green salad on the side.

Recipe Notes

  • To drizzle the garlic sauce, as I've done in the photos here, transfer it to a plastic bag and push all the sauce to one corner. Snip a small bit off the corner, and squeeze the sauce out onto the cakes.
  • If using canned salmon: By my measurements, one 6-ounce can contains a scant cup of salmon or a very full three-quarters cup. On the whole, I think using two cans for this recipe is just fine, but if you tend to like drier, more compact fish cakes, then use three cans.
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