I love fish, but I don’t cook it often. For one thing, it’s expensive. For another, it doesn’t save or reheat well. One of the keys to tiny kitchen cooking is efficiency. Cooking larger quantities allows for fewer grocery trips, less waste, and less space taken by storing excess ingredients. If something doesn’t make a leftover, I rarely cook it.
Salmon, however, is an exception to the “fish doesn’t reheat well” rule. While it’s still best to use the leftover fish in a timely fashion (don’t wait more than two days), it can easily be adapted into a second meal: mashed potato cakes with salmon. Yes, they are as simple as they sound. And they are even more delicious than they sound.
There are two tricks to making great salmon cakes. The first is to be aggressive with seasoning. Add more dill and mustard than you think is necessary. The extra flavorings make the salmon pop and the potato stand back, so you don’t end up with just potato flavor (not that that’s bad—fried mashed potato patties make an excellent side dish, and a great use for Thanksgiving leftovers).
The second trick is to coat the cakes with breadcrumbs before cooking. The breadcrumbs serve three purposes. They make a crisp crust on the outside of the cake, they help keep the cakes from sticking to the pan, and they keep the cakes formed. I don’t use any egg to bind my cakes, as egg makes them less fluffy, so the breadcrumbs go a long way to maintaining form.
Just cook the patties until they’re crunchy on the outside—nothing is raw, so there’s no worry about reaching a certain temp or doneness. I find cast iron works best for making sure the cake doesn’t get too dark on the outside before it’s warm in the center, but I’ve made them in every pan I have with excellent results.
If you try these, I bet you’ll find yourself always buying extra salmon and making extra potatoes so you can have leftovers the next day.
Salmon Potato Cakes
1/2 pound salmon, cooked*
1 pound potatoes, mashed (or same proportion of colcannon)*
1/3 bunch of dill, finely chopped*
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp country style mustard
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup canned bread crumbs
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
In a large bowl, break up cooked salmon into chunks. The chunks do not have to be too fine; the salmon will break up further when it’s mixed. Add the mashed potatoes, dill, and mustard to the bowl. With your hands, mix all ingredients until well combined. Taste a small bite and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
Mix both types of bread crumbs on a plate. Form salmon mixture into patties (no fewer than 5 or the outside of the cakes will get too dark before the inside is warm). Tap each patty into the bread crumb mixture to lightly coat. Lightly press into the crumbs to make the crumbs adhere. Set cakes aside and sprinkle any remaining crumbs over the top. Press extra crumbs in lightly.
Heat a large pan or griddle over medium heat. When pan is hot, add butter to coat the pan very well (approximately 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons should work, depending on your pan). Add cakes to pan/griddle (in batches if necessary). Do not move the cakes around too much—you want a crust to form. Check one cake occasionally to see how dark the bottom is getting. When the cake has reached a desired level of darkness, flip the cake. Again, check one cake for doneness, and remove when ready. If cooking in batches, add more butter to the pan before starting the second batch. Serve hot.
*These three ingredients can be leftover from the poached salmon and colcannon recipe. Just make sure to reserve some of the dill before putting the rest in the pan to poach the salmon.