‘Tis the Season: Salmon Potato Latkes

Sometimes the closer we are to something, the less we appreciate it.  Such was the case between salmon and me; I had to leave the Pacific Northwest, where it is abundant, before I could realize how good I really had it.

Salmon are unique in that they live part of their lives in the ocean and then migrate into fresh water and head upriver toward home, where they breed. In spite of crashing about on rocks and getting badly banged up, they have a mission that keeps them going.

Kettle Falls postcard, courtesy nwcouncil.org
Kettle Falls postcard, courtesy nwcouncil.org

Fresh caught Atlantic salmon is tasty and farm raised works in a pinch, but when it comes to salmon, Dorothy, there’s no place like home.

In the Pacific Northwest, Indian tribes have long cherished sacred gathering spaces where they could spear and net great salmon that thrashed and leaped over rocks and falls on their way upstream.

Now, dams and ladders have altered the natural landscape and forever changed these ancient rites and traditions.

Since it is all about celebrating salmon’s fresh and briny taste, the simpler the preparation the better. In the pan or on the grill, salmon stays moist and does not fall apart easily.   When it comes to nutritional value salmon has little competition in overall protein, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and collagen.

You could say I am on a salmon run of my own.  Last week it was Smoked Salmon Mousse, this week I have finally succumbed and used up the last can of wild caught salmon.  It was a touchstone on my shelf that I did not give up easily.

No question, Salmon Potato Latkes—otherwise known as potato pancakes with salmon—are a worthy treatment for any fresh caught salmon.  If you don’t happen to have a can of salmon hanging around, an 8 oz fillet or steak lightly poached will work beautifully, too.Salmon Latke

Remember to begin by coarsely grating the potato and onion; allow it to drain in a colander for 10 to 15 minutes, and then wrap it all in toweling while assembling other ingredients. This removes unnecessary moisture and helps the egg to bind all into crisp salmon studded potato pancakes.

Salmon Latke with forkTraditionally, potato pancakes are served with applesauce or sour cream. Here, I opt for a quick sauce of yogurt speckled with green onions and capers.

Beyond a light dinner entree, consider this a breakfast alternative, a brunch option topped with an egg and perhaps a little Hollandaise Sauce, or make dollar-sized cakes for an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre selection.

Salmon Potato Latkes

Inspired by Classic Potato Pancakes by Andrew Friedman at Epicurious.com

1/2 large onion — peeled
2 medium Idaho baking potatoes — peeled
8 ounces salmon, approximate — canned or fresh caught filet or steak, poached, skinned
1 large egg
salt and pepper — to taste
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons butter
Yogurt-Caper Sauce (follows)

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Spray baking pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Coarsely grate the potato and onion and allow to drain in colander for 10 to 20 minutes. Squeeze out moisture and move to toweling; wrap snugly to absorb more moisture.
  3. In large bowl, beat the egg then slowly whisk in the flour. Season lightly with salt and pepper; add the potato-onion mixture. Break the salmon into chunks and lightly stir it in, do not over mix.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium/high heat with 1 tablespoon oil. When hot drop 1/4 cup scoops into pan and press lightly into 3″ cakes. Cook about 4 minutes per side until golden brown and crisp. Drain on toweling and keep warm in oven. Wipe any debris from pan, add more oil, and repeat until all are cooked. Serve with Yogurt-Caper Sauce. Makes about 10 potato pancakes.

For Yogurt-Caper Sauce: combine 1 cup or more plain yogurt with 1 Tbsp drained small capers and Tbsp minced green onion.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Mix and Match

This time of year we are all looking for easy holiday statements that will go above and beyond the norm and please many. Here is an elegant ensemble that stars lightly smoked Nova Scotia salmon in mousse form.  You can go all out and line the mold with more thinly sliced salmon or simply adorn it with dill and capers.

Surround this beauty with a colorful display of fresh vegetables: radishes, cucumbers, red peppers, celery, baby carrots etc.,  fill in with olives, gherkins, a few pepperoncini, and whatever else strikes your fancy.  Salmon moldAdd an assortment of crisp lavosh, seeded crackers and to-die-for mouth sized bites of homemade Sally Lund Buns. (For more, visit earlier post on the virtues of Sally Lund Bread.) The buns are beyond good warmed with a slathering of herb butter—one will fit nicely in each cheek.

Sally Lund Buns pic

Smoked Salmon Mousse Mold

4 ounces sour cream
6 ounces cream cheese, brie or other soft cheese, cut up
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon horseradish, or to taste
2 teaspoons lemon juice, or to taste
salt to taste
8 ounces Nova Scotia salmon, thinly sliced
dill, capers, sliced lemon for garnish

  1. Smoothly line 2 cup flatish mold with plastic wrap.
  2. Blend sour cream through lemon juice until smooth, blend in part of the nova up to half until smooth, reserving enough to line mold. Adjust seasoning.
  3. Decoratively place dill, capers, into the mold, which will be the finished top. Line with a thin layer of salmon and fill with mousse. Wrap well and weight down lightly. Chill well.
  4. Unmold the mousse and carefully remove the plastic wrap.  Smooth out any obvious wrinkles with damp fingers. Accompany with radishes, cucumbers, celery, peppers, crackers; dill and lemon. Serves 8 to 10.

For Sally Lund Buns

Refer to Romancing the Bread with previous post for the Sally Lund Bread recipe here.  The easy batter is quickly made a couple of days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until the day it is needed.  For buns I increased the sugar from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup.  About 2-1/2 hours before serving, remove the batter from refrigerator and stir it down with a few strokes.

For large buns:  Butter or spray standard muffin cups and fill with about 1/4 cup of batter.  Cover with lightly buttered plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in volume, about 1-3/4 hours.  Bake in 375 degree preheated oven for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool on rack for 5 minutes and turn out to cool.  Yield:  about 18 large buns.

How to use the batter for an assortment of medium and mini buns

For medium buns:  using 4-oz silcone cups, fill with about 2 tablespoons of batter (a small ice cream ladle); cover with lightly buttered plastic wrap and let rise until nearly doubled, about 60 minutes.  Bake in 375 degree preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on rack for 5 minutes and turn out to cool. Yield:  12 medium bins.

For bite sized buns:  butter or spray mini muffin cups; fill each 1/2 full using rounded teaspoon.; cover with lightly buttered plastic wrap; let rise for about 45 minutes and bake in preheated 375 degree oven 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on rack for 5 minutes and turn out to cool.  Yield: 36 mini-buns.

Note:  I baked the minis first.  While they were baking I prepped the larger medium sized which require additional rising time.

 

Super Bowl: On a roll with Summer Rolls

bowls and sticks IMG_1189This past Super Bowl Sunday we veered away from the endless offerings of chips, dips, greasy snack foods, chili and other heavy hitters, and headed off in an entirely new direction.

Instead, we merrily rolled down the path of make-your-own Summer Rolls.

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Unlike the Super Bowl, everyone was happy.  This turned out to be a genius plan since the Summer Rolls were light yet satisfying and readily available whenever the urge struck.

The entire spread was fairly easy to assemble, since it was mostly fresh salad ingredients that required no cooking. rolls sauces IMG_1190 Lettuce, carrots, avocado, mint, cilantro, and basil were sliced and shredded ahead and placed in bowls.

A day ahead, we went to our local Asian market to pick-up packaged pre-cut thinly sliced lean beef along with  a couple pounds of fresh shrimp for a quick blast of heat on the grill.

There were plenty of condiments to satisfy individual tastes including wasabi,  soy sauce, sesame seeds, and a couple of  dipping sauces:  a hoisin flavored peanut sauce and a lighter Sriracha (hot chili-garlic sauce) blended with Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese fish sauce).

We also had pre-softened and drained rice noodles on hand, but vermicelli noodles are another popular alternative.

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We even had a funky rice paper holder replete with its own water bath.  You simply dip the dry rice paper in the water tank, give it a quick spin, and in no time it’s a softened skin, ready to roll.  No muss, no fuss.

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There was a grill station set up for each person to grill their own slices of beef/and or shrimp to order.

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The good news is that kids of all ages love to create their own rolls and they even seem to include plenty of salad fixings without flinching.

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Fresh Dungeness Crab: A Reason to Celebrate!

fresh crabDue to a late harvest, Dungeness crab season this year was delayed until mid-December. Of course, this gave us even more reason to rejoice because it meant a holiday crabfest!   For commercial purposes, this meant crab must meet a 25% meat threshold, or deliver at least ½ pound of meat per 2-pound crab.

Crab stoveThere’s no way of being dainty when it comes to thoroughly enjoying all that this delicacy has to offer.  Armed with a good set of crackers to split the shells open, stray bits of shell and crab morsels will fly off in unpredictable directions.  But that’s just part of the fun, so we tend to either dress down or don aprons and/tuck in big napkins for extra protection.

Jan crab table Here’s a handy way for everyone to gather around the crab and help themselves to both fabulous garlic dipping butter and portions of crab all in the same pot.  Have plenty of fresh bread for mopping up the pan juices!

 Dungeness Crab in Garlic Butter

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2-3 or more Dungeness crab, pre-cooked
  • ½ cup parsley

Instructions

  1. Break the crab into portions and set aside.
  2. In a wide pan over moderate heat, melt the butter and add the garlic; allow it to simmer a few minutes to develop flavor then carefully add the lemon juice.
  3. Increase the heat slightly and place the crab into the pan.  Turn as needed to coat all with the garlic butter.  Let cook on the stove top for 5 to 10 minutes; place in 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve with plenty of warm bread.  Yield:  4.