A favorite comfort food my mother used to make when I was growing up was Julia Child’s salmon gratin. Made with canned salmon, it was a go-to pantry dish. I loved the rich flavors of salmon with gruyere, shallots and mushrooms sautéed in butter, and subtle hints of white vermouth and oregano. We always ate it over white rice, but when I started cooking it on my own I discovered that it’s even more delicious served over nutty brown rice. But truth be told, even though the flavors of Julia’s gratin are scrumptious, the texture of this dish is a bit mushy and the appearance a bit sludge-like. Recently I was inspired to experiment with those flavors when I cooked up some hulless golden barley from my bean and grain CSA. The nutty bite of the grain seemed to call out for rich, gooey salmon and cheese, but instead of a gratin, I decided to try combining them into salmon cakes. And to capture the creamy mushroom flavors I loved in the original dish, I made a topping of sautéed mushrooms and crème fraiche. These cakes, fried in olive oil, are rich, but not too indulgent when served over lemony greens. The patties are a little delicate and are much more manageable if you chill them thoroughly before frying them. A favorite source of canned salmon is Chuck’s Seafood in Charleston, Oregon (http://www.chucksseafood.com), where they cans their own locally caught Chinook salmon. —Fairmount_market
12 salmon cakes (about 4 entrees or more appetizers)
barley (best is golden hulless, or use pearled barley)
medium sized shallot
gruyere cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
mushroom cream and garnish
dry white vermouth
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh lemon juice
In This Recipe
The evening before, heat a skillet over medium heat. Toast the barley in the dry skillet, stirring, for a few minutes until it starts to give off a toasted fragrance. Transfer to a bowl and add cold water to cover and let the barley soak. The next day, remove any loose hulls that have floated to the top and drain of the water. Add 2 cups fresh water and a generous pinch of salt, bring the barley to a simmer, and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the barley for doneness. It will probably still need another 5 to 10 minutes to cook, but if it is still quite watery, you can remove the lid at this point and finish cooking while letting more of the liquid evaporate. When the barley is tender but still has a firm bite, turn it off. You will have more that you need for the recipe, so save some for salads or as a side dish or freeze for another batch of salmon cakes. Measure out one cup of cooked barley for this recipe and transfer to a large bowl and allow it to cool.
Peel and chop the shallot in a small dice. Heat a skillet over medium heat, melt 1 Tbsp of butter, and sauté the shallots, with a pinch of salt, until very soft, but do not let them brown. Add these to the bowl with the barley.
Clean and slice the mushrooms. In the same pan that you cooked the shallots, melt another Tbsp of butter and now sauté the mushrooms over medium heat, with a pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Let the mushrooms release their own juices and keep cooking them until the liquid cooks down. Now add the white vermouth and cook the mushrooms until this has cooked down. Turn off the mushrooms and let them cool. When the mushrooms have cooled, put them in a food processor with the crème fraiche and pulse a few times to create a textured paste. Reserve the mushroom cream for serving.
Now your barley should be cooled down enough to mix in an egg. Then mix in the grated gruyere cheese, oregano leaves, salt and freshly ground pepper. Break the salmon into flakes with a fork and gently mix this into the batter, along with the juices. Now use your hands to gently mix in about ½ cup panko, or more if the batter feels to moist. Form the batter into 12 two patties, about two inches wide. Roll these in more panko and place them on a parchment paper or silpat covered cookie sheet and chill them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add about 4 Tbsp of olive oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil is shimmering, place half of the cakes into the pan. Now leave them along for a good 5-8 minutes until they are nicely browned (don’t be tempted to flip them too soon). Flip and cook until the second side is nicely browned as well.
While the salmon bakes are cooking, toss the salad greens with lemon juice and a small pinch of salt, and arrange on plates. When the salmon cakes are done cooking, place on the bed of greens and top each cake with a large dollop of the mushroom cream. Enjoy.
I'm a biology professor and mother of two, and in my (limited) free time I love to cook, which is much more forgiving than laboratory science. Last year I helped start a farmers market in my neighborhood, and to promote it, I created a food blog: fairmountmarket.blogspot.com. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with recipes for local, seasonal ingredients and finding fun ways to cook with my children.