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Feb 4, 2016
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WINE WITH…Salmon Cakes

Many of us remember being served salmon patties when we were kids. They were good, or at least good enough, in a harmless, bland way. But our friend John recently served us salmon cakes he’d made with fresh fish, which was a very different experience than dining on the retro canned version. John’s weren’t boring! In fact, they were so delicious that we decided to try and replicate the dish ourselves a few nights later.

While fresh salmon is the key here, we think a couple of other pointers are worth mentioning. Many recipes call for embellishing the basic ingredients with bell peppers or jalapenos, wasabi or other heavy spicing, capers, cheddar cheese, and all manner of other “enhancements,” but we prefer to let the subtly gorgeous flavor of good, fresh fish speak for itself. In a symbiotic way, keeping the ingredients simple and straightforward allows the pure flavors of a good wine to shine through as well.

One popular approach to making salmon cakes is to cook the fish, flake it and combine with the remaining ingredients, then form it into patties to be fried or baked. The problem with this method is that the fish gets cooked twice. For brighter, fresher flavors, we found that it worked better to mix raw, diced salmon in with the other ingredients.

Salmon Cakes

Serves 4

For best results, form the salmon cakes at least a couple of hours in advance; then refrigerate them so they will hold together better during cooking.

For an optional garnish do not discard the salmon skin—save it and make delicious salmon “bacon.”

One pound boneless salmon fillet, skin removed; save the skin if you are going to make salmon “bacon” (instructions below)
1/3 dry bread crumbs such as Panko
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced parsley
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon olive or other vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter


Lemon wedges
Salmon “bacon” (optional)

Dice the salmon into quarter to half inch pieces. Whisk together the egg, mayo, mustard, lemon juice, parsley and scallions. Fold in the diced salmon, season with salt and pepper, then form the mixture into 4 or 6 patties. Place the patties in a single layer on a small baking sheet or platter and refrigerate for at least two hours (alternatively you may place it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes).

To cook the salmon cakes, melt the oil and butter in a skillet, preferably cast iron or nonstick. When the butter sizzles, add the salmon patties, working in shifts if necessary. Sauté them for 4-5 minutes, or until they are nicely browned on the bottom; then flip and cook the other side, about 8 minutes total cooking time.

The optional Salmon “Bacon” may be prepared several hours in advance. To make it, place the piece or pieces of skin in a nonstick skillet and fry over low to moderate heat until it is crisp. This is a slow process, which should take about 20 minutes. Drain on paper towels, and when it is cool enough to handle use scissors or a very sharp knife to cut it into strips.

* * *

Salmon cakes made with fresh fish turn out to be extremely versatile when it comes to pairing with wine. Both reds and whites work well. So too, light-bodied wines carry their flavors just as well as fuller-bodied ones. We wouldn’t advise opening big, alcoholic, astringently tannic reds, but can imagine virtually any other style of dry wine working at least satisfactorily. We tried thirteen different wines with our salmon cakes. These five were our favorites, but don’t take the list as a fixed or final template.

Questions or comments? Contact us at [email protected]


Approx. Price


Decoy, Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay 2013


Oaked chardonnay is an obvious pairing to try with this dish, as the buttery undertones seen tailor-made for both the fish and the breading. This one isn’t excessively wooden, so tasted bright as well as sumptuous.

Loosen “Dr. L,” Mosel (Germany)

Riesling Dry 2014

(Imported by Loosen Bros. USA)


Dry and light, so supremely refreshing, this new offering from the always reliable Dr. Loosen made the salmon cakes seem to sing. It is full of green apple fruit and bright citrus flavors, so sipping it akin to squeezing fresh lemon juice onto the dish.

Henri Poiron, Muscadet Sévre et Maine (France) Domaine des Quatre Routes 2013

(Imported by Michael Corso Selections)


Good Muscadet can age effortlessly, acquiring a nutty undertone--something that is just beginning to happen with this 2013. The wine gave the wine lift as well as depth, so was a truly delicious match.

Steelhead Vineyards, Sonoma County (California) Pinot Noir 2013


It’s hard to find well-made Pinot Noir at this price point, but this wine delivered both appealing flavor and good value all it once. Paired with the salmon cakes, it made the dish seem extra substantial.

Terras Gauda, Rías Baixas (Spain) “O Rosal” 2014

(Imported by Aveniu Brands)


The addition of smaller amounts of Loureiro and Caíño grapes with some 70 percent Albariño gives the O Rosal blend extra heft, something that in turn made the wine such a good partner for this dish.