I love writing this column, and you, the readers, are the reason. Through your emails and conversations in the grocery store or on the street, you tell me your stories and I always learn something.
The reaction to my February column on the world’s best tartar sauce was enlightening. It seems that many of you live in divided houses in the world of mayonnaise, and that I am not alone when it comes to a loved one turning up their noses at what I believe is the Southern condiment. Yet even with this sharp diversity of opinion and taste on the subject, households can live in harmony through compromise. It seems to me that if we – on a grassroots level – can agree to disagree and move forward to solutions, then our politicians could do the same. Maybe they should share more meals together with those with whom they disagree.
Additional learning came with the large number of emails touting how great tartar sauce is on a hamburger. Since eating a burger is one of my favorite indulgences, no one had to twist my arm to research this theory. The readers are correct: Tartar sauce on a burger is a beautiful thing, and if you are one of those who does ketchup and mustard as well, you will have created a special sauce better than the fast food versions.
Where I got blasted was not giving a recipe to go along with the tartar sauce. Fair enough.
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Salmon cakes (or patties) is a perfect recipe for March. It takes care of Lent, St. Patrick’s Day (yes, the Irish eat more salmon than corned beef) and is perfect for an Easter brunch. These are not the salmon cakes of old school lunches or your mother’s – although I must admit I loved those too. I make the cakes with fresh salmon and liven it with a mixture of fresh herbs, making them bright and tasting more of the ocean. While I’ve suggested roasting the salmon, that’s just to get you started. Grilling or poaching the salmon will give equally great results. Most of the time I cook a couple of extra fillets when I am serving salmon and reserve two for the cakes later. Each cooking method tweaks the cakes’ flavor differently, but all are delicious.
Don’t tell the mayo haters that there’s mayo in the cakes; they won’t taste it. And for their sauce, just stir some fresh dill into honey mustard. They’ll love it.
Fred Thompson is a Raleigh cookbook author and publisher of Edible Piedmont magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred’s Salmon Cakes
Use panko breadcrumbs, a Japanese breadcrumb sold at most grocery stores. Serve with some roasted potatoes or asparagus and a great salad. Note: You can freeze the cakes. Form the salmon cakes, but do not cook. Place them on a baking sheet; freeze until firm. Wrap each cake in plastic; transfer to resealable freezer bags. Store up to one month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.
1 pound skinless salmon fillet
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Texas Pete or Tabasco
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1/4 chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
World’s Best Tartar Sauce, for serving (recipe below)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the fish on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until cooked to medium, about 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely; pat dry with paper towels. Break salmon into smaller pieces; flake with a fork.
Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, dill and tarragon in a large mixing bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, lemon juice and salmon. Mix gently until ingredients just hold together.
Form mixture into 8 patties (each about 2 1/2 inches wide). Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until cold and firm, 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, drizzle with olive oil. When the oil simmers, add the salmon cakes but don’t crowd the pan. You may have to do two batches. Keep the first batch warm in a 200-degree oven. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes, then flip and finish for another 4 minutes. You can also broil the cakes. Heat your broiler. Broil patties until lightly golden on top (without turning), 6 to 8 minutes. Serve with the tarter sauce.
Yield: Serves 4, makes 8 cakes, 2 per serving.
World’s Best Tartar Sauce
This sauce gets better and better the longer it sits and will last a good month refrigerated. From NC Catch, provided by Jason’s Restaurant in Ocracoke.
2 cups good quality mayonnaise
1 small onion, peeled and rough chopped
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
2 dashes hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
Place the mayonnaise in a medium mixing bowl.
Place the onion, parsley and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Pour into the bowl with the mayonnaise
Stir in the pickle relish, hot sauce, paprika, dill weed and mustard.
Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving; overnight is better.
Yield: about 2 1/2 cups