Salmon patties, many ways


Nick Roumel

There was a time, if I didn’t have all the ingredients for a recipe in sufficient amounts, I would freeze. I would consign myself to running to the store, borrowing from a neighbor, or abandoning the project.

Those days are long gone, my friends.

Whether good or bad, when I’m in the kitchen, I fly on the wings of improvisation. Take salmon patties, for example. I grilled nearly five pounds of Atlantic salmon for a mini-family reunion and though we stuffed ourselves silly, there were nearly two pounds left over. I gave some to a neighbor who helped me with a dock I knocked over with a rental boat (another story for another time) and saved the rest.

There are a lot of things you can do with leftover salmon. One is to flake it with cream cheese, sour cream, dill and green onion and make a spread for crackers or bagels. Another is to scramble it up with eggs in the morning. The solution I hit upon is to make salmon patties. They can keep a few days in the fridge or indefinitely in the freezer, and they’re a breeze to reheat.

A couple years ago I saved a recipe for salmon patties with the intention of writing an article about them. I don’t think I ever did. (Being very frank, I am always wary of plagiarizing myself. I don’t trust searching my hard drive for an article because I have three different computers I write these articles on. Therefore I actually have to Google “May it please the palate” “Roumel” and [insert item]). In this case, I was good to go: a thorough search revealed no previous articles about salmon patties.

Yet the recipe I saved, from nearly three years ago, no longer appealed to me. It involved egg substitute, fat-free mayonnaise, and cooking spray; and if that wasn’t bad enough, included cilantro and garlic. To me, those flavors would overwhelm the salmon. So I searched for something else on line.

I found two five-star review recipes that were as divergent as could be. Ina Garten, the “Barefoot Contessa,” featured one with two kinds of bell peppers, celery, crab boil seasoning, and mustard. Again, I thought that was a little too much for the salmon, which was delicate and mild. Then I found another five-star recipe, on, from “Oliver and Fischer’s Mommy.” I kid you not. But there were 29 rave reviews, such as this one: “Made these and my husband loved them. Said they were the best ones I’ve ever made and I’ve made a lot of them.” — I bet she did, and her husband sang his praises in soprano.

But Oliver and Fischer’s Mommy called for canned salmon and sautéed onions, two things I didn’t want to use either — although her simplicity of ingredients appealed to me. So I made my own combination.

And here’s the point of this article. Salmon patties are but one example of a recipe that has innumerable variations, and there are no wrong answers. Just a few basics: something to bind the salmon with (egg, bread or cracker crumbs), whatever flavors you want, and typically quickly pan-fried with oil and/or butter.

I went to work and took to my wings. I flaked my remaining pound-plus of leftover grilled salmon. I went to add two eggs but only had one, so I sought to add some mayonnaise. Alas, no mayo — I had taken it to the office. (Don’t ask.) A heaping spoonful of sour cream did the trick instead.

As for bread, I had some leftover whole grain toast and crumbed up a piece of that. Added some lemon juice and a few dashes of Frank’s (Ancient Greek Recipe) Hot Sauce, the one green onion I had, and whatever dill I could muster off some dried stalks. That was it.

I fried them up in a judicious mix of olive oil and butter, small patties that cooked quickly — a few minutes on one side and maybe a minute on the other. I planned to eat them for lunch all week but six were gone in a flash. I tried them with a squeeze of lemon, some capers, a dash of hot sauce, even some chopped umeboshi plum (my latest obsession).

Bottom line: let the salmon be the star; bind it enough with whatever to form fry-able patties; flavor it however you’d like; and you too can have a five-star recipe.

As for remembering what to write down, now that’s another matter entirely.


Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nick roumel.


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