Salmon cakes

After college I worked for a short time for a security company, first as one of the central station operators than as an installer.
One of my first jobs in the field was to do an installation in the home of a recently widowed woman on the north side of St. Louis.  Once I got on site and started in on the work, losing track of time.  I was working up in the attic when a familiar aroma wafted up and teased my nostrils. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, but something was being pan-fried in the kitchen…two floors below and it smelled better than good.  It smelled like “home.”
On my way down to get something from the truck, I stuck my head into the kitchen to tell the homeowner how wonderful whatever she was preparing smelled. Once I saw what was browning in the frying pan, it all clicked.  Salmon cakes!  
The woman told me she was preparing “salmon croquettes” for her uncle who was staying with her until things settled down a little and the alarm system was up and running.  Apparently, this was one of his favorite dishes. 
This tidbit launched me into a rambling account of how my mother would prepare salmon cakes a couple of times a month when I was growing up.  It was quick, tasty and relatively inexpensive.  And we all (my father, sister, mother and I) loved them.  I hadn’t thought about salmon cakes in years until I smelled them cooking that day.
Once I related the story…I was immediately offered one of the patties the homeowner was frying up.  I resisted at first, but she was just persistent enough to break me down.  Even though I had packed a lunch, I found myself sitting at her kitchen table, sharing the salmon cakes with her and her 70-year-old uncle.  Lovely!
Typically, installations took two, two and a half days.  When lunchtime rolled around that second day, I again smelled the wonderful aroma of the salmon cakes/croquettes frying in the kitchen.  I kept working, trying to blot out the enticing scent of lunch.  Before too long the homeowner appeared in my work area and not as much invited me as insisted I stop and join her and the uncle for lunch again.   Guess what she served? 
We’ve been living in semi-exile at Mom’s house the last couple of nights because we’ve had the steps (the bedroom is upstairs) and living room floor refinished at our house.  So Mom decided she’d make her ‘famous’ salmon cakes for us for dinner.  Yeah, Mom!

Mom's salmon cakes

Salmon Cakes
  • 1 can (15 ounces) salmon
  • 1 large egg
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • celery salt
  • flour for dredging
(The following is verbatim from Mom’s handwritten recipe card.
Separate the salmon, remove the bones.  Beat an egg just enough to mix it.  Add to salmon along with any seasonings you like — usually salt pepper & celery salt.  Roll cakes in flour & pan fry immediately in a little hot grease.
If you want a more specific, slightly healthier version…try this recipe given to my Mom by her late sister, my Aunt Tark:
Oven “Fried” Salmon Cakes

TIP:  These patties can be assembled or baked a day ahead & refrigerated. Baked patties can be reheated, covered, in the oven or microwave.

  • 1 large egg or whites from 2 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 ounces) salmon, drained & flaked
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  1. Heat oven to 400 F. Spray cookie sheet with vegetable cooking spray.
  2. Beat egg with a fork in a medium-size bowl.  Add remaining ingredients & mix until well blended.  Shape in eight 1/2 inch thick patties.
  3. Place on prepared cookie sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes, turning once, until golden on both sides.

Makes 4 servings.

Either recipe  would easily take the addition of some finely chopped fresh herbs: flat leaf parsley, thyme, or dill would work.  To dress up the presentation, a little rémoulade or tartar sauce would be nice; hollandaise, too. But don’t get carried away…this is simple, direct food that doesn’t need a lot of dressing up.


NOTE: In reviewing this post I realized that the idea of 1 can of salmon serving four people seems a little, um, skimpy.  The six cakes pictured above were made with two cans of salmon. 


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2 Responses to “Salmon cakes”

  1. Mark Says:

    My mother used to make these, served with potato cakes usually made from leftover mashed potatoes from the night before.

    Ultimate comfort food!

  2. Jim Carlucci Says:

    Mark, I think it must have been a standard dish for our parents to make. You don’t hear too much about them these days…and it’s a shame. Love the potato cake idea…of course we know what happens to leftover mashed potatoes (rare as they are) in my house!

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