Thursday, September 17, 2009

A tribute to the Croquette and other wild Salmon patty stories...

I like to read old cookbooks. I'm not talking about the the old Better Homes & Garden cookbook that everyone has with pages plastered together from years of use...I'm talking about old cookbooks, like first half of last century. I even have found recipes from the 1800's, though that far back recipes start having unknown or unwanted ingredients (like lard) and strange measuring amounts like "pinch", "drop", "size of a walnut". It wasn't until the turn of the century that measurements were standardized.

Anyway, the reason I mention this is that all old cookbooks have a least 12-50 recipes for croquettes (not to be confused with the lawn game) A Croquette is a small fried breadcrumb coated cylinder or disk containing any number of ingredients, including last nights leftovers, mashed potatoes, fish or meat, and is soaked in bread, egg or some other binder. From wikipedia: "The croquette (from the French croquer, “to crunch”) was a French invention that gained world-wide popularity, both as a delicacy and as a fast food."

They were apparently all the rage back then so I always wonder what ever happened to the once beloved croquette? What could possibly happen to a food so obviously popular to have it almost go extinct? Oh sure, occasionally I see croquettes on a menu or in a newer cookbook, but it's rare. It's a mystery to me! Someday I will track down the answers to these questions, but for now, won't you join me for a moment of silence for the long lost croquette.

Thank you.

Now back to the 21st century, where the croquette has been transformed into a "patty" or a "cake",and brings me to my recipe of the day, Salmon Patties.

The first salmon patty I ever tried was believe it or not for breakfast about 10-12 years ago. They occasionally offered them for breakfast where I worked since salmon patties are a southern staple for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don't have any idea what got me to try them other than the other selections on that day must have been slim to none since I was never a big salmon eater and I'd never even considered eating fish for breakfast. Much to my surprise, I really liked them.

Eventually I investigated making them myself, but back then the first ingredient in every recipe was "1 can of salmon with bones and skin removed" because back then the only canned salmon available had to be picked over. Yuck. I could never get past that. So I resigned myself to only having them occasionally for breakfast at work (I wasn't about to actually cook a real salmon myself, I was in my twenties for Pete's sake).

Then came the awesome salmon in a pouch, with no bones or skin. Hurray, my ship had come in! So I set out to find the perfect salmon patty recipe. After many attempts, I decided I'm what I would call a salmon patty minimalist. I don't like any additions to distract from what makes a salmon patty all that it can be. No onions, no green pepper, nothing crunchy at all except the recently discovered Panko japanese breadcrumbs that are finally available in our hometown grocery store.

So without further adieu, I'd like to present.....the salmon patty:

Isn't she beautiful? Bask in the glory of the salmon patty, go ahead.

On a practical note, the salmon patty is my goto dinner, when I need something quick and haven't planned anything for dinner. It can sit nice and quiet on my pantry shelf until just the time when it can be called into the game. I keep a package of steamfresh brown rice (our family could eat this like a snack food we love it so much) and some steamfresh veggies in the freezer and within minutes we have a healthy meal on the table full of healthy Omega 3's and whole grains. Salmon patties actually are on the very short list of things my kids will eat for dinner (and they are probably one of the healthiest)

So finally if I could stop jabbering on, here is the recipe:

1 pouch Salmon (I use either Bumble Bee or Chicken of the Sea, I prefer the wild caught as it has more Omega 3's)
1/4 cup mayo (I use light mayo, you could even use Smart Balance brand for extra credit Omega 3's)
1 egg (I use Eggland's Best, for yet more Omega 3's)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup Panko or regular breadcrumbs
Sometimes if I'm feeling wild, I'll throw in a dash of cayenne.

Add each ingredient one at a time until it is all thoroughly mixed. Shape into patties. This recipe makes about 5 patties which is enough for our family, but sometimes I double it because the leftovers are good cold in a sandwich.

Spread some more breadcrumbs on a plate, add some seasoning salt to taste. Roll each patty in the breadcrumbs to coat. Now you can go ahead and cook the patties, but you will probably notice that they are a little hard to stay together. At this point if I have time, I like to throw them (well not literally) in the refrigerator 'til they get nice and firm.

Now fry them in a fry pan coated with a good coating of a healthy oil like canola or olive oil over med-high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side.

If you like tarter sauce on your patties and don't have any handy, I mix some mayo with lemon juice and a little bit of sweet pickle relish (just taste it until you get it right)

Oh and you can also make crab cakes with this recipe.

And you can even call them Salmon Croquettes if you want to.


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