These easy salmon cake appetizers are perfect for the holidays. Credit: Sandy Oliver / BDN

Most of us are looking forward to a pretty quiet Christmas.

Around here, it will be a small household gathering instead of our more usual neighborhood moveable feast with each course at a different house, which is gobs of fun but not such a good idea this year. Instead of a sit down dinner, I’ve decided we will have a cozy day of lounging around the Christmas tree in nightgowns and pj’s, opening presents and grazing on all our favorite snacks and appetizer-like foods. Which is not to say it won’t be wholesome fare, just casual.

My friend Kathy Kerr makes delightful and easy-peasy salmon cake appetizers. They have the added virtue of being made from canned salmon which lots of us have in our pantry, perhaps because we like salmon wiggle — that great combination of salmon, cream sauce and peas on toast so common in Maine.

Our menu will be these little salmon cakes; raw veggies cut up and dipped in a hummus-like bean dip I make with garlic and olive oil from homegrown shell beans; maybe some Swedish meatballs and perhaps the greasier wonderfulness of Rotel dip with sausage and cream cheese into which we dump a can of Rotel vegetables — tomatoes and peppers — and slurp it up with scoopy corn chips. Maybe a platter with olives, pickles, cheese … well, we’ll see. And cookies for sweets.

The salmon cakes are mixed up all at once, formed into little patties — the recipe makes 16 to 18 two-inch cakes but you can make them larger or smaller as you wish. It calls for Old Bay seasoning, which has salt, celery flavor, red pepper, black pepper and paprika plus a couple other unidentified spices. Without Old Bay, you can add salt, ground celery powder and the other spices to taste starting with just a shake or two of each. If you don’t have scallions, substitute a shallot or small onion.

Kathy’s recipe advises using low fat mayonnaise and making them with egg white. You can do that if you want to go the lower fat route, but I put in a whole egg and used full-fat mayonnaise. Your choice.

Another thing I did was stir some vegetable oil, just a tablespoon or so, into the panko crumbs that I dipped the cakes in before baking. That helped them crisp up and stick to the cakes a little better.

Then there is a dipping sauce which I decided to apply to the cakes before serving in little drips and blobs. If you are a cocktail sauce fan, use that for dipping or decorating instead.

You can see what a grand little hot appetizer this would make any time of the year, and besides, who says we have to eat appetizers before a meal when they make a good meal by themselves? For now, you can make these cakes a little bigger for a supper with salad and potatoes or rice, and later, post-pandemic, for a party. They are yummy either way.

Salmon Cakes

Serves 8

1 can (14.75 ounces) salmon, drained, larger bones and skin removed

½ cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

2 green onions, or a large shallot chopped

1 egg

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or to taste

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

¼ cup panko crumbs

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Dipping Sauce

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a sheet pan or line it with parchment paper.

Put the salmon, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, red pepper, onion, egg, lemon juice, Old Bay, and Dijon in a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly with a fork. Make a trial patty and if it is still too loose to stick together, add a little more mayonnaise.

Toss the panko crumbs and vegetable oil together in a shallow bowl.

Form the salmon mix into 2-inch patties (if for appetizers) or larger ones (if a main dish) and press into the panko crumbs on each side and place them on the baking sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, turning each patty halfway through at the 6 minute mark.

Meanwhile, assemble the dipping sauce by whisking together the lemon juice, mayonnaise and mustard until it is smooth.

Drip it onto the finished cakes or serve it in a shallow bowl alongside the cakes.

Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...