Salmon Cakes with Lemon-Herb Tartar Sauce

While I was looking to put together a nice weekend meal, I noticed that Chris Kimball has already suggested a few combination of recipes. Tonight’s meal was part of his Bistro Dinner; featuring Easy Salmon Cakes , Creamy Lemon Herb Dipping Sauce and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. The whole meal came together in under an hour, and while at first glance the combined length of ingredient list may seem intimidating, most ingredients are already in you panty / refrigerator.  And because the salmon cakes and tartar sauce use many of the same ingredients, it only looks twice as long. The results are amazing; 4-1/2 stars, without making too big of a mess.

Delicious Salmon cakes.

Delicious Salmon cakes.

Chris Kimball’s prior salmon cake recipe from the year 2000 used a lot of the ingredients that he now criticizes; flour, eggs to bind the bread crumbs to the outside of the cakes. He even called for sandwich bread as a filler. While the cakes in the new recipes barely hold together before frying, they eventually cook into a cohesive patty without the need for fillers or binders. Also his prior recipe had us chopping the salmon by hand; whereas the new recipe simply limits us to 2 pulses per batch. My advice is to forget about his Y2K-recipe and only use this updated 2011 recipe.


  1. My price of $15.50 is based upon the non-sale Salmon price of $10/lb. Of course, salmon often goes on sale for $6. That would bring the price down to just over $10 for 8 cakes, including the dipping sauce.
  2. When ordering the fish, ask for 1-1/3 pounds of fish, which will yield the requisite 1-1/4 after skinning. The guy behind the fish counter was happy to skin my salmon for me. He did a masterful job and left almost no pink attached to the skin, which he discarded for me.
  3. The Creamy Lemon Herb dipping sauce is delicious, but makes more than 1/2 cup. For this recipe you can either cut the recipe in half, or slice some cucumbers to eat along side. Chris Kimball didn’t develop a new sauce for this 2011 recipe; but his sauce from the year 2000 is so good that there was clearly no need.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15.50 for 8 cakes.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 5:15 PM.  Ready: 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original salmon cake recipe is here. The original recipe for the Creamy Lemon Herb Tartar Sauce is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

Salmon Cakes Ingredients:
3 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Lemon; half for juice and half for lemon wedges
1 scallion
1 small shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1-1/4 pound skinless salmon fillet,
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Creamy Lemon Herb Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
2-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 large scallion
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Ground black pepper

  1. First make the tartar sauce, which needs 30 minutes rest to allow the flavors to combine. Measure out 1/2 cup mayonnaise into a 1 to 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup, which you can also use a mixing bowl. Add juice from 1 lemon (about 2-1/2 tablespoon juice). Mince parsley, thyme and both white and green part of scallion. Add 1/2 teaspoon table salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix until combined, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons panko, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and pinch of cayenne. Cut lemon in half lengthwise, then juice half the lemon into bowl and cut the remaining lemon into 4 wedges and set aside for serving. Thinly slice scallion, mince shallot and parsley; adding to bowl then stir everything until combined.
  3. Cut salmon fillet into 1″ pieces, and divide into 3 even batches. Pulse each batch for just 2 pulses. The salmon should be relatively uniformly chopped into 1/4-inch pieces. It is OK if some pieces that are bigger than 1/4-inch, as it is more important to avoid over-processing into a paste. Add each batch to the mixing bowl containing panko/mayo, and repeat with remaining batches. Carefully mix until evenly combined.
  4. Put 3/4 cup panko in a pie plate, then use a 1/3-cup-measuring cup (leveling mixture using dip and sweep) to create 8 even piles on a baking sheet.
  5. Carefully form each salmon pile into a cake, dip into panko so that it is lightly coated, and gently form into 2-3/4″ by 1″ patty, putting each patty back onto baking sheet.
  6. Add 1/2 cup vegetable oil to a 12″ skillet, and pre-heat over medium-high burner for 4 minutes until the oil begins to shimmer.  Fry cakes without moving them for 2 minutes, and flip when golden brown. Flip and fry second side for another 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Remove to paper-towel lined plate and allow to drain for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges and dipping sauce.

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