Side Orders: Salmon cakes get a boost from bacon, Parmesan

Anne Braly
Anne Braly

I can't remember how many times we'd have salmon cakes as a kid. My mother was a great cook, but she worked and sometimes had little time during the week to cook for us, so we'd eat dinner in the dining hall at McCallie School, where I grew up. When she did have time to cook but was in a hurry, Momma would reach into the pantry, grab a can of salmon, add a few ingredients, make several patties and off they went into the frying pan. I'll have to admit it wasn't my favorite quick and easy meal, but it satisfied my hunger, I guess.

Recently I was shopping for salmon fillets at Food City, and the seafood department was out. "We'll get them in in about two days," the fellow working in the seafood department told me. Well, that wouldn't work because I was planning on having grilled salmon for dinner that night. "We do have salmon cakes, though," he said. "No," I thought. "No, no, no." The thought of consuming salmon cakes that had been sitting on ice in a seafood department for a day or two didn't sound very appealing.

But then, I got home, checked my email and had to smile when I saw one from the Food Network touting the deliciousness of celebrity chef Melissa d'Arabian's "Five-Star Cakes flavored with a secret weapon." Now, wouldn't that pique your interest?

The "secret weapon," as it turns out, is bacon in the cakes and Parmesan cheese in the breading. If you're of the anything-with-bacon-is-good school, then you'll want to try it in salmon cakes, and the Parmesan added a good flavor to the breading. Both "weapons" took salmon cakes to a new level. The recipe calls for canned salmon, but I had a bag of salmon fillets in my freezer that were a little too thin to grill, so they worked perfectly for salmon cakes, or croquettes as you may call them. To use fresh salmon, mash the fillets until they are mushy with some pieces small enough to work into a patty.

The recipe was missing one thing - a good sauce to go with it. Remoulade would be delicious if you have time to make it. If not, a good tartar sauce or some horseradishy cocktail sauce is delicious with the cakes.

Five-Star Salmon Cakes

2 strips bacon, cooked until crispy, crumbled, bacon fat reserved

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 egg

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 lemon, zested

1 (14-ounce) can wild salmon, checked for bones

1 baked or boiled russet potato, peeled, and fluffed with a fork

1/4 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Lemon wedges, tartar sauce or cocktail sauce

Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the onions, and cook until translucent. Cool the onions for a bit.

Mix the bacon, onion, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Add the salmon and potato, mixing gently after each addition. Form the mixture into 12 small patties. In a shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and pepper, to taste. Coat the patties in the bread crumb topping, but be gentle. The cakes are delicate. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat, and cook the salmon cakes in batches until golden brown, turning carefully, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add more oil, as necessary. Arrange on a serving platter, and serve with lemon wedges and tartar or cocktail sauce, if desired.

Let them eat cheesecake!

The much-anticipated, very long-awaited opening of The Cheesecake Factory will happen on Tuesday, and there's much more to the menu than cheesecake, though you'll find many of those sweet confections front and center. Like all 200 locations, the menu features in excess of 250 items, plus more than 50 cheesecakes and other desserts. Some of the new menu items are a tuna poke bowl, chipotle grilled shrimp salad and the Very Cherry Ghirardelli Chocolate Cheesecake.

Mouth watering yet? The Cheesecake Factory is at 2084 Hamilton Place Blvd. It's a new construction in the parking lot area between Sears and the CBL Center office building.

While on the subject of new restaurants, I recently had dinner at the new Texas Roadhouse in Hixson. It was packed with diners. Apparently the company hit on the right location and realized the need for new places in the area. I know it's a chain restaurant, and the Northgate neighborhood will probably never get the independently owned eateries we see downtown, so chains are probably all we'll be seeing. But it's certainly nice to have choices without having to drive too far from home.

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