Our summer neighbors down Bluff Road, the Brewers, are here to do work in their woods this month, and I stopped down to see them last week. Laura had made salmon burgers, which she served on wilted greens with a dollop of remoulade on top. It looked so delicious that even if it wasn’t right around supper time, it would have been appetizing.
Then, two days later, Sue and Taz Stafford came by and the topic of salmon burgers came up again since they were taking some to friends for a potluck supper. Sue uses a Mark Bittman recipe she found years ago in The New York Times. She puts part of the uncooked salmon in a food processor and turns it into a paste, then adds the rest of salmon, pulsing it but leaving it in small chunks.
That reminded me of how I make crab cakes. I puree a piece of plain white fish, then add picked crab. The fish holds the crabmeat together and takes up the crab flavor, so I don’t have to use a lot of egg or breadcrumbs to bind it. With the salmon, I added dry breadcrumbs, but that was to keep the salmon from becoming too dense and hard. The burgers were some good stuff.
I added shallots to the salmon as I ground it up, but any mild onion would work. Then I add salt and pepper. Because I wanted a crunchy exterior, I pressed the burgers into panko-style crumbs on each side before cooking them in a fry pan with butter and olive oil, but crumbs are definitely optional. Mine were about an inch thick. You can cook them until they are medium rare, just like beef burgers, or until they are thoroughly done. Do it all to taste.
I made an herby sauce out of mayonnaise, a little cucumber relish plus dried dill, garlic and chopped chives fresh from the garden. By the way, the easiest method to puree garlic is to grate it on a microplane. If you prefer, take a short-cut with tartar sauce, homemade with mayonnaise and cucumber relish, prepared from a jar, or simply use chili sauce
We had our salmon burgers with wilted greens, a salad mix with lots of spinach in it, which I tossed briefly in the remaining butter and oil in the fry pan after I removed the burgers. They would have been terrific on burger rolls, and they hold together so well that you can easily grill them just as you do beef burgers.
You can assemble and refrigerate these burgers a day or so ahead of cooking them. A pound and a half of fresh salmon makes four 6-ounce burgers, which is a hearty size for dinner, but it could just as well create satisfying servings of six 4-ounce burgers. Just adjust the amount of salmon you buy to the appetites around your table. Plus the salmon mix would make lots and lots of bite-sized appetizers.
Salmon Burgers with Herby Garlic Sauce
For the burgers:
1½ pounds fresh salmon
2 whole shallots or one small mild onion, cut into chunks
¾ cup dried coarse bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Panko style bread crumbs, optional
Olive oil and butter
For the herby garlic sauce:
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, pureed
1 tablespoon dill, or more to taste
1 tablespoon chopped chives or more to taste
Dab of cucumber relish, optional
Squeeze of lemon juice
1. Remove the skin from the salmon fillet, and cut it into about 2-inch square chunks.
2. Put about a quarter of the chunks into a food processor and grind until it turns into a paste.
3. Add the balance of the chunks and the shallots or onion and pulse it a few times until you see thumbnail sized pieces of fish.
4. Put the fish mixture into a bowl and add the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper by stirring it all gently until mixed.
5. Form the burgers about an inch thick.
6. Put about two tablespoons of butter into a fry pan and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Heat it over medium high until it is quite hot and the mix bubbles a little.
7. Add the burgers and fry on one side for about two and a half minutes until golden, then turn over and fry another two to three minutes. Make a little slit to test for doneness.
8. Finally, make the sauce. Blend all ingredients together and taste, adding more of anything you prefer.